Food Flavoring Related Lung Disease

ORIGIN: Moldex Technical Services Department


A severe lung disease, Bronchiolitis Obliterans, has been associated with the making and use of flavorings that are used to make microwave popcorn and other food products. Flavorings are often complex mixtures of many chemicals. The safety of these chemicals has generally been established for humans consuming these chemicals, but not for the food industry workers that are inhaling them when manufacturing foodstuffs. One of the major components which is used and mixed with other ingredients and used to produce butter flavor or other flavors is a yellowish liquid called Diacetyl. Diacetyl and other chemicals can be highly irritating to breathe in high concentrations.

Food preparation workers that have been exposed to these substances may develop bronchiolitis obliterans which is an uncommon lung disease. It is an inflammation and scarring which occurs in the smallest airways of the lung. The lung problems can range from mild cough to severe cough and shortness of breath. Some people may experience fever, night sweats and weight loss. Onset may be gradual or acute. The disease can even lead to lung transplants if it becomes severe enough.

Workers exposed to this flavoring may also experience eye, nose, and throat and skin irritation. In some cases, chemical eye burns have even required medical treatment.

Occupational exposure guidelines have been set for only a small number of the thousands of ingredients used in flavoring.

Although NIOSH and OSHA recommend that a hierarchy of controls be used by manufacturers to control this hazard, which includes substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, education, personal protective equipment and exposure and health monitoring, sometimes the use of respiratory protection may be required and unavoidable.

NIOSH recommends a full face air purifying respirator fitted with organic vapor cartridges and particulate filters as a minimum.

Moldex® Solution

Moldex® suggests the 9000 Full Face Respirator series with 7100, 7300 or 7600 cartridges piggybacked with the 7940 P100 filter disk.  The use of these respirators should be in compliance with a comprehensive respiratory protection program in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.134, as a minimum, which includes, but is not limited to fit testing, training and medical surveillance.


Occupational Exposure to Diacetyl and 2,3-Pentanedione

OSHA Safety and Health Topic:  Flavorings-Related Lung Disease

-Hazard Evaluation System & Information Service Diacetyl (Butter Flavor Chemical) Use in Flavoring Manufacturing Companies August 2006

WARNING: The information contained in this Tech Brief is dated and was accurate to the best of Moldex’s knowledge, on the date above. It is not meant to be comprehensive, nor is it intended to be used in place of the warning/use instructions that accompany Moldex respirators. Outside of the USA, check with all applicable and local government regulations.

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