Butter-Flavored Microwave Popcorn or Breathing

Butter-Flavored Microwave Popcorn or Breathing
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The artificial butter flavoring diacetyl has been linked not only to deaths of workers handling the chemical, but also to serious lung disease in consumers of microwave popcorn.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The poison gas phosgene, first used extensively as a chemical warfare agent during World War I, can cause a horrific lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans, in which your small airways are essentially obliterated—a generally irreversible, fatal condition that may also be caused by butter-flavored microwave popcorn.

I’ve warned previously about diacetyl, the artificial butter flavor linked to a condition known as popcorn lung in workers who had been exposed to it and started dying from it. It turns out the industry knew about the dangers for decades, but covered it up. Even when workers started dying, the company swore the chemical was safe for consumers, though—that it was only an occupational health hazard. In fact, they even had ads with Orville Redenbacher telling consumers to breathe deep, but I quipped in my last video that any ingredient requiring the use of a gas mask is probably not something you want to feed your family. I wanted to err on the side of caution, and I’m glad I did.

A series of cases of consumers of butter-flavored microwave popcorn developing bronchiolitis obliterans: 47-year-old woman who consumed three to five bags a day, and now can’t even walk without getting out of breath. She’s currently awaiting a lung transplant.

56-year-old man, another lifelong nonsmoker, but ate two to three bags a day before he started coughing up blood. His doctor alerted the FDA, but it remains on the market to this day.

A third, just one to two bags a day, and her Jolly Time Pop Secret was ending up with lungs so scarred they had what’s called honeycombing, and patches with the appearance of ground glass.

Now the chemical is found in real butter, too, but it’s heavily concentrated when added as additional flavoring, and remains legal on store shelves to this day. The “[r]egulation of health hazards from food additives has [simply] fallen between the regulatory and health surveillance cracks.”

They recommend a series of steps to protect consumers, such as “allowing the bag to cool” completely before opening (but who wants cold popcorn?), and then “opening in a well-ventilated area away from the face.” One solution they didn’t mention that would also eliminate the risk of lung disease? Don’t buy it.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Jeffry B via flickr, and Hermann Rex and the US Army via Wikimedia. Thanks to Ellen Reid and Minh Nguyen for their Keynote help.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The poison gas phosgene, first used extensively as a chemical warfare agent during World War I, can cause a horrific lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans, in which your small airways are essentially obliterated—a generally irreversible, fatal condition that may also be caused by butter-flavored microwave popcorn.

I’ve warned previously about diacetyl, the artificial butter flavor linked to a condition known as popcorn lung in workers who had been exposed to it and started dying from it. It turns out the industry knew about the dangers for decades, but covered it up. Even when workers started dying, the company swore the chemical was safe for consumers, though—that it was only an occupational health hazard. In fact, they even had ads with Orville Redenbacher telling consumers to breathe deep, but I quipped in my last video that any ingredient requiring the use of a gas mask is probably not something you want to feed your family. I wanted to err on the side of caution, and I’m glad I did.

A series of cases of consumers of butter-flavored microwave popcorn developing bronchiolitis obliterans: 47-year-old woman who consumed three to five bags a day, and now can’t even walk without getting out of breath. She’s currently awaiting a lung transplant.

56-year-old man, another lifelong nonsmoker, but ate two to three bags a day before he started coughing up blood. His doctor alerted the FDA, but it remains on the market to this day.

A third, just one to two bags a day, and her Jolly Time Pop Secret was ending up with lungs so scarred they had what’s called honeycombing, and patches with the appearance of ground glass.

Now the chemical is found in real butter, too, but it’s heavily concentrated when added as additional flavoring, and remains legal on store shelves to this day. The “[r]egulation of health hazards from food additives has [simply] fallen between the regulatory and health surveillance cracks.”

They recommend a series of steps to protect consumers, such as “allowing the bag to cool” completely before opening (but who wants cold popcorn?), and then “opening in a well-ventilated area away from the face.” One solution they didn’t mention that would also eliminate the risk of lung disease? Don’t buy it.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Jeffry B via flickr, and Hermann Rex and the US Army via Wikimedia. Thanks to Ellen Reid and Minh Nguyen for their Keynote help.

Nota del Doctor

My previous video on this topic is Is Artificial Butter Flavor Harmful?

What about food dyes? See Are Artificial Colors Bad for You? and Artificial Food Colors & ADHD.

What else can we do to protect our lungs?

Meat safety is another example of regulatory breakdown. See, for example, Drug Residues in MeatSalmonella in Chicken & Turkey: Deadly but Not Illegal; and Past the Age of Miracles.

Anyone have any good recipes for making air-popped popcorn delicious? I spritz with some apple cider vinegar, and sprinkle on chlorella and nutritional yeast.

For further context, check out my associated blog post: Avoid Butter-Flavored Microwave Popcorn.

2018 update: I just did a couple of new videos on microwaves. Check out Are Microwaves Safe? and The Effects of Radiation Leaking from Microwave Ovens

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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