House Says Yes to Popcorn Lung Bill
Legislation Would Require New Worker Protections
Sept. 26, 2007 -- The U.S. House of Representatives called for stricter new
standards Wednesday to protect workers exposed to flavoring chemicals in
Lawmakers passed a bill forcing federal regulators to enact fast-track
regulations that would increase health monitoring and protections for employees
who work with diacetyl. The chemical, which helps give microwave popcorn a
butter taste, has been linked to a rare but potentially deadly lung ailment in
The bill calls on the Labor Department to tighten diacetyl exposure
standards within three months, much faster than federal regulations usually go
"We need an emergency standard right now," Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.)
tells WebMD. "Hundreds of workers have been affected by this."
Diacetyl has been linked to bronchiolitis obliterans, a disease
characterized by destruction of the lung's small air passages.
Leading microwave popcorn manufacturers have said they plan to stop using
diacetyl, but the ingredient is present in other processed foods as well.
The bill, which passed 260-154, also requires companies to develop
protection plans, including the use of respirators, to guard workers.
The Environmental Protection Agency is set to release a study that could
begin to help determine whether diacetyl fumes pose risk during home cooking.
The study is looking at levels of the chemical emitted by popcorn during the
The Senate has not yet acted on the bill.
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) voted against the bill Wednesday. "Congress is in
no position to diagnose the problem here," he says.
"If there's something wrong with popcorn, how did Orville Redenbacher live
so long?" he says.