The History of Popcorn Lung

Image courtesy of AOL

Image courtesy of AOL

According to the American Lung Association, in the early 2000s there was an epidemic in popcorn factories where an extraordinary amount of workers were being diagnosed with a type of lung cancer called bronchiolitis obliterans, a serious and irreversible lung disease. Bronchiolitis obliterans, commonly referred to as "popcorn lung", is a scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs that results in the thickening and narrowing of the airways. As it turns out, the widespread bronchiolitis obliterans in the popcorn factories was being caused by the inhalation of a buttery-flavored chemical used in popcorn called diacetyl. While this flavoring tastes good, it ultimately contributed to the illnesses and deaths of hundreds of factory workers. As a result of this, major popcorn producers removed diacetyl from their products. Nonetheless, hundreds of thousands of young people are directly inhaling diacetyl through their vape devices. Researchers at Harvard University found that 39 of 51 e-cigarette brands add the chemical to e-juice liquid to enhance flavoring. In addition to diacetyl, the study also found two other chemicals that harm lungs, pentanedione and acetoin, in 23 and 46 of the 51 flavors tested. Even though it is known that these chemicals cause popcorn lung and they were deemed unsafe for factory workers, around 92% of e-cigarette companies still use them in their products and are harmfully affecting the health of American youth.