The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is the workplace-safety arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency has recently increased its interest in the hazards of exposure to diacetyl and other similar workplace chemicals.
Diacetyl a flavoring agent that mimics the creamy taste of butter, and is used in products such as baking mixes, microwave popcorn, beer, and e-cigarette liquids. A recent study has linked the chemical to Alzheimer’s Disease. It has also been linked to lung damage that leads to bronchiolitis obliterans, better known as “popcorn lung,” a disease where the smallest airways of the lungs have become inflamed and scarred, severely restricting airflow.
Lawsuits have been aimed at flavoring manufacturers for the lung diseases and lung damage allegedly caused by diacetyl.
When a Madison, Wis.-based coffee roasting facility named Just Coffee Cooperative requested NIOSH conduct a health hazard evaluation, the findings confirmed that “high instantaneous concentrations” of diacetyl were present. The findings sparked health hazard evaluations of 20 additional coffee-processing facilities.
“Our goal of air sampling is to identify areas, tasks or jobs with high exposures that require exposure control,” said Rachel Bailey, medical officer in the NIOSH Respiratory Health Division. “Once we know where the high air level concentrations are, then we can work on recommendations of how to get these air levels down through exposure control.”