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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Microwave Popcorn Aroma May Have Triggered Consumer's Lung Problems

Microwave Popcorn Aroma May Have Triggered Consumer's Lung Problems

Microwave Popcorn Aroma May Have Triggered Consumer's Lung Problems

Wednesday September 5, 2007
CityNews.ca Staff
To some, it's the most wonderful smell in the world, a mouth watering invitation to dig in and enjoy a movie. But researchers are warning that the aroma of microwave popcorn may actually be hazardous to your health. You may remember a few years ago when workers in factories that make the tasty treat began filing lawsuits over  lung problems they maintain were caused by regular exposure to the chemicals used in flavouring the product.
Now a Denver heart specialist claims to have discovered the first case of a consumer who came down with similar complaints after making the snack in his microwave several times a day for years. The physician admits his diagnosis is a controversial one and that more study needs to be done before anything is confirmed. "We cannot be sure that this patient's exposure to butter flavored microwave popcorn from daily heavy preparation has caused his lung disease," cautions Dr. Cecile Rose of the National Jewish Medical and Research Center. "However, we have no other plausible explanation."
Popcorn makers weren't happy about the findings, and believe their products are safe. But the announcement was enough to make those behind the scenes take action. An entity known as the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association has written its members urging them to reduce "to the extent possible" the amount of a substance known as diacetyl used in butter flavourings. And at least one manufacturer, Weaver Popcorn Co., has now decided to replace that ingredient altogether because of the consumer scare.
What should you do? Don't panic. Whatever is going on here isn't very common. "There have been no other cases that we know of other than the industrial occupational ones," assures hospital spokesman William Allstetter. Both he and Dr. Rose remind the public this is a single case and a single circumstance and isn't enough to suggest microwaving popcorn on a semi-regular basis can lead to serious disease.
The patient in this instance ate "several bags of extra butter flavored microwave popcorn" every day for several years, according to the physician. That's a frequency few consumers can match. He suffered from increasingly worsening respiratory problems, including coughing, shortness of breath and trouble exhaling. Things seemed to improve after he stopped using the microwave product. Tests on the airborne levels of diacetyl in the man's home after he made the salty snack showed they were equal to those found in the plants where the problem first surfaced.
Your best bet? Use the product in a well ventilated area, avoid breathing it in, or switch to a diacetyl-free brand. Or you can use a hot air popper the next time you sit down to watch a DVD at home.



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