Saturday, December 24, 2005

Popcorn Workers Lung (IV)

BrooklynDodger thinks this is the fifth in the series of NIOSH papers on popcorn workers lung. The Dodger sympathizes with the investigators trying to characterize a never before seen association between lung disease and exposure to a "safe" food additive.

The Dodger notes again that nothing is visible regarding surveillance of workers at sites other than than the index site, that there is no visible chronic or subchronic bioassay of diacetyl, the most strongly suspected chemical agent, and there is no exposure guideline recommended, much less promulgated as a standard.

BrooklynDodger has been told there's some gray literature on this, such as data on exposures from consumer applications of butter flavoring.

Chest. 2005 Aug;128(2):991-7.

Induced sputum evaluation in microwave popcorn production workers.

Akpinar-Elci M, Stemple KJ, Enright PL, Fahy JV, Bledsoe TA, Kreiss K, Weissman DN.
NIOSH Division of Respiratory Diseases Studies, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Field Studies Branch, Mail Stop H-2800, 1095 Willowdale Rd, Morgantown, WV 26505, USA.

OBJECTIVE: Severe airways obstruction and bronchiolitis obliterans have been reported in microwave popcorn production workers and attributed to inhalation of flavoring agents. We investigated whether exposure to flavoring agents is associated with airways inflammation in popcorn production workers.

METHODS: Fifty-nine workers with high exposures and 22 patients with low exposures to flavoring vapors completed a questionnaire, spirometry, and sputum induction. Sputum cell counts were categorized as "high" if greater than (and "low" if less than or equal to) the median cell counts of a healthy external control group (n = 24). We compared high- and low-exposure groups as well as all workers with control subjects.

RESULTS: Neutrophil concentrations in nonsmoking workers were significantly higher than those of the healthy nonsmoking control group (p <> 1.63 x 10(5)/mL) was 3.8 (95% confidence interval, 1.3 to 11.5) in the high-exposure group compared with the low-exposure group. Sputum interleukin-8 and eosinophil cationic protein levels were higher in high-exposure workers than in low-exposure workers (p <> 95%. There were no relationships between sputum characteristics and the presence of airways obstruction.

CONCLUSIONS: High exposure to popcorn flavoring agents is associated with neutrophilic airway inflammation in popcorn production workers. These data provide further evidence that popcorn production workers face a significant occupational hazard through exposure to flavoring agents.

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