Popcorn Workers’ Lung

This is potentially very bad news for K.:

Harris, Gardiner, “Doctor Links a Man’ Illness to a Microwave Popcorn Habit,” The New York Times, 5 September 2007

A fondness for microwave buttered popcorn may have led a 53-year-old Colorado man to develop a serious lung condition that until now has been found only in people working in popcorn plants.

Lung specialists and even a top industry official say the case, the first of its kind, raises serious concerns about the safety of microwave butter-flavored popcorn.

Apparently many brands of microwave popcorn use a chemical called diacetyl to create their buttery flavor and inhalation of diacetyl is strongly associated with an inflammatory lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans or “popcorn workers’ lung” (I hear a neo-Dickensonian tale in there somewhere). This guy had consumed at least two bags of microwave popcorn a day for the last ten years and when doctors measured the levels of diacetyl in his house, they found them comparable to those in popcorn factories.

K.’s tastes are so bland that he may have saved himself by not bothering with the buttered brands, but on the offhand chance that you have, K., the FDA might want to get in touch with you.