Monitor 2008 Jul; 7(3):3-4, 16
Analyses of data from medical and environmental surveys at six microwave popcorn plants indicate widespread risk for occupational lung disease from exposure to butter-flavoring chemicals. In five of six plants, mixers and/or packaging-area workers with onset of respiratory symptoms after starting work had undergone medical evaluations that revealed fixed airway obstruction and other findings consistent with bronchiolitis obliterans. The findings from medical surveys of current workers at these plants are consistent with the medical evaluations, indicating risk to mixers who combine butter flavorings with heated oil and to packaging-area workers who work near inadequately isolated tanks of healed oil and flavorings. These analyses highlight the high potential for lung disease in mixers of oil and butter flavorings. Because fl1avoring-related decreased lung function can occur before the onset of symptoms, relying on self-reporting of respiratory symptoms by workers as a way to identify early lung disease is insufficient to prevent clinically significant irreversible lung disease. Therefore, regularly scheduled medical monitoring with spirometry for workers who enter mixing rooms or 'perform quality control popping of product in microwave ovens is essential for early detection of declines in lung function that may indicate flavoring-related lung disease. Workers exposed to butter-flavoring chemicals in the manufacture of other food products besides microwave popcorn may also be at risk for occupational lung disease. Clinicians should consider this possibility if they are evaluating respiratory symptoms or impairment in patients with a history of work in flavoring-manufacturing plants. Diagnosis of lung disease that is possibly flavoring- related in such workers should prompt further evaluation of the affected workers' workplace and coworkers to identify ongoing risks, if any, so that disease in other workers can be prevented.
Occupational-exposure; Risk-factors; Risk-analysis; Respiratory-hypersensitivity; Respiratory-irritants; Respiratory-infections; Respiratory-system-disorders; Chemical-composition; Chemical-hypersensitivity; Chemical-indicators; Chemical-properties; Particle-aerodynamics; Particulate-dust; Pulmonary-congestion; Pulmonary-function; Pulmonary-system; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Fumes; Metallic-compounds; Lung-disease; Lung-disorders; Lung-irritants; Pulmonary-congestion; Pulmonary-disorders; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Breathing-zone
Newsletter; Lay Publication