"Popcorn Lung" Symptoms and Causes

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In 2004, The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported several cases of bronchiolitis obliterans (BO) in workers in a microwave popcorn plant in Missouri in 2000. Bronchiolitis obliterans is a serious and irreversible condition in which the tiny air sacs in the lungs become scarred. After investigation by the NIOSH (National Institute of Occupation Safety and Health), it was discovered that a flavoring agent, diacetyl, was used to give the popcorn a buttery taste, and that inhalation of this flavoring likely contributed to the development of the illness. The disease that results often is associated with cough and shortness of breath, similar to that seen in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This process is irreversible by current therapy.