Popcorn Lung Disease in Microwave Popcorn Factory Workers
By Aaron Larson
A Product Liability Case Study
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), workers at microwave popcorn factories, who have been exposed to vapors from artificial butter flavoring which contain the chemical diacetyl, are at risk for lung disease. There is concern that workers at other snack food factories may also have been exposed to this chemical, and be at similar risk.
Workers have alleged respiratory conditions resulting from exposure, including asthma, bronchiectasis, chronic bronchiolitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and emphysema. However, the most significant claims to date involve bronchiolitis obliterans, a potentially life-threatening condition which involves the blocking of bronchial passages in the lungs as a result of chronic scarring, and which does not not respond to normal asthma medication.
Workers with this condition may be able to pursue workers' compensation relief. Some law firms are also pressing product liability claims against the manufacturer of the butter flavoring, on the basis that they "knew or should have known" that the product was hazardous, and that it failed to provide adequate warnings about the chemical. International Flavors & Fragrances officials say the lawsuit is without merit and the butter flavoring is not to blame.
International Flavors & Fragrances and its subsidiary, Bush Boake Allen, Inc., the manufacturer of the flavoring, responds that these claims are without merit and the butter flavoring does not cause lung disease. A jury recently disagreed with that defense, awarding $20 million dollars to a worker whose bronchiolitis obliterans necessitated a lung transplant.
Due to the significant variation in the law governing liability over defective products, when selecting a lawyer, it is usually a good idea to seek representation from a lawyer with experience handling this type of case.
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