I’ll think twice after reading about “popcorn worker’s lung,” a disease caused by exposure to fumes from a chemical called diacetyl. Diacetyl is found in both natural dairy products and in fake butter that gives microwave popcorn its mouthwatering flavor.
Heated diacetyl becomes a vapor and, when inhaled over a long period of time, seems to lead the small airways in the lungs to become swollen and scarred. Sufferers can breathe in deeply, but they have difficulty exhaling. The severe form of the disease is called bronchiolitis obliterans or “popcorn workers’ lung,” which can be fatal.
Consumers are assured that consuming diacetyl in microwave popcorn is harmless – just as long as you keep your consumption moderate. Doctors identified one man, who, after eating a couple of bags of microwave popcorn per day and inhaling deeply from the bag after opening it, developed the same symptoms as the workers making the popcorn. So, sure, maybe we’re safe if we eat it in small amounts and try to avoid the fumes… but the stuff sounds pretty nasty to me. And what about the health of the workers making it?