Toxic Exposure

Flavoring Chemical Lawsuits

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Flavoring chemicals provide pleasant aromas and tastes to consumer products, but when inhaled by workers and consumers, they may cause serious lung diseases and in certain cases, may be fatal. Food workers, commercial cooks and bakers, flavorists (chemists who design artificial and natural flavors), pet food workers, and others who are regularly exposed to airborne flavorings containing the chemical diacetyl and other similar chemicals are at an increased risk of developing severe lung diseases.


March 14, 2017

Motley Rice reached a confidential settlement March 14 for a client who developed bronchiolitis obliterans and was referred for a double lung transplant after working for more than 30 years at a chemical plant in West Virginia. The client claimed in his suit that chronic, low-dose exposure – and not just acute, “massive dose” exposure – can cause debilitating lung diseases. No liability was admitted.

Consumers who use these products, including those who eat butter-flavored microwave popcorn and people who “vape” flavored e-cigarettes are also at risk of developing flavorings-related lung diseases due to the use of flavoring chemical ingredients in these products.

Flavoring chemical exposure side effects

Lung diseases that have been associated with exposure to flavoring chemicals include:

  • Asthma
  • Bronchiolitis obliterans
  • COPD
  • Emphysema
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis

Contact a flavoring chemical attorney

Our toxic exposure team represents workers and consumers affected by flavoring chemicals. If you or a loved one worked in a factory that used flavoring chemicals, “vaped” flavored e-cigarettes, or consumed butter-flavored microwave popcorn, and have since been diagnosed with a debilitating lung disease, including bronchiolitis obliterans, contact us by email or call 1.800.768.4026 to learn if you may have a case.

If you believe that you may have a claim, consider contacting an attorney as soon as possible.  A statute of limitations (SOL) may limit the time you have to file a claim. If you do not file your claim within the SOL, you may lose it forever.

What is diacetyl?

Diacetyl is a chemical used in flavorings that has been linked to severe lung disease, particularly a rare lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans that can cause narrowing or complete blockage of airways. People affected may experience shortness of breath with activity, coughing, wheezing, unexplained fevers and fatigue. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Current evidence points to diacetyl as one agent that can cause flavorings-related lung disease.”

Airborne flavoring chemical exposure in factory settings

Although sometimes referred to as Popcorn Workers’ Lung or Popcorn Lung, flavoring-related lung disease has been associated with dozens of consumer items made with both artificial and natural flavorings.

Workers in factories where flavoring chemicals are used may be exposed to these harmful chemicals, resulting in shortness of breath with activity, coughing, fatigue, wheezing, unexplained fevers and the development of severe lung diseases. Factories where airborne flavoring chemical exposure is likely to occur produce products, including:

  • Baked goods
    • Refrigerated dough products (especially those containing butter flavoring)
    • Baked goods where butter flavoring is an ingredient, for example:
      • Biscuits, etc.
      • Bread
      • Crackers
      • Rolls
  • Candies
  • Coffee
  • Cooking oils (especially those containing butter flavoring)
  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, ice cream, etc.)
  • Dry mixes containing flavorings
  • E-cigarette liquids or “juices”
  • Flavored coffee creamers
  • Pet foods
  • Snack foods
    • Coated snacks such as cheese-flavored chips and butter pretzels
    • Butter flavored popcorn (both microwaved and bagged)
  • Other items with natural or artificial flavorings as an ingredient including

These flavorings typically consist of one or more of the following chemicals called alpha-diketones:

  • diacetyl, CAS No. 431-03-08 (2,3-butanedione) 
  • acetyl propionyl, CAS No. 600-14-6 (2,3-pentanedione) 
  • acetyl butyryl, CAS No. 3848-24-6 (2,3-hexanedione) 
  • acetyl valeryl, CAS No. 96-04-8 (2,3-heptanedione)

In 2000, several former employees of a Gilster Mary-Lee popcorn plant were diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, leading to an investigation by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that concluded there was "a risk for occupational lung disease in workers with inhalation exposure to butter flavoring chemicals." Since that time, food and flavoring workers have been diagnosed with other lung diseases, including COPD, asthma and emphysema.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Investigations of other workplaces have also shown that employees that use or manufacture certain flavorings have developed similar health problems.”

On Oct. 31, 2016, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released a new report titled Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Diacetyl and 2,3-Pentandedione. The report focuses on recommendations to aid in reducing the risk of developing respiratory diseases associated with the chemicals.

Flavoring chemical exposure through flavored e-cigarette inhalation

In October 2015, a study presented to the American College of Chest Physicians titled “Acute Inhalational Lung Injury Related to the Use of Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS)” addressed the case of a 60-year-old man diagnosed with inhalational injury related to the use of an e-cigarette and e-liquids or “juices.” The liquid used in the e-cigarette, the study notes, contained nicotine, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and flavorings, adding that an estimated 69% of sweet-flavored  e-liquids or “juices” contain diacetyl and/or acetyl propionyl.

"The use of e-cigarettes in the United States is increasing rapidly and the flavorings used, many of which contain diacetyl, may be harmful. This case adds to the growing body of research indicating e-cigarettes pose a health risk," said presentation co-author Dr. Graham Atkins.

In the News: (Oct. 8, 2015): Chemicals from roasting coffee may be cramping lungs

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (2015): Gasping for Action: Watchdog Investigation

Washington Post (Aug. 31, 2015): What’s in all that e-cig vapor?

Forbes (Aug. 31, 2014): The Health Claims of E-Cigarettes Are Going Up In Smoke

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