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Respiratory exposures from microwave popcorn packaging.

Kullman G; Boylstein R; Piacitelli C; Jones W; Pendergrass S; Hubbs A; Keiss K
American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, June 1-6, 2002, San Diego, California. Fairfax, VA: American Industrial Hygiene Association, 2002 Jun; :62
In May 2000, eight former workers at a plant that mixes and packages microwave popcorn were reported to have bronchiolitis obliterans, a severe lung disease characterized by fixed airflow obstruction; four of these workers were placed on a lung transplant list. At the request of the Missouri Department of Health, NIOSH staff investigated exposures and respiratory health outcomes at the plant. Subsequent clinical study indicated that current plant employees have 3.3 times the rate of obstructive spirometry abnormalities compared to national adjusted rates and never smokers had 10.8 times the national expected rate. NIOSH initiated industrial hygiene study at this plant in August of 2000. Sampling was con- ducted for a number of analytes including airborne total and respirable dusts, particle size distributions, volatile organic compounds, ketones, acetylaldehyde, acetic acid, and micro-biological contaminants in bulk materials. Respirator training and fit testing were provided for workers in the ingredients mixing where the highest exposures were found; engineering control recommendations were also provided. Animal exposure studies were begun at NIOSH using flavoring agents from this plant. Qualitative sampling for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in air detected over 100 different compounds; the predominant VOCs identified included the ketones diacetyl, acetoin, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), and 2- nonanone. Diacetyl was predominant and concentrations ranged from below detectable limits to 98 parts per million (ppm), with a mean of 8.1 ppm (Sm 19 ppm). The average ketone concentrations were highest in the microwave mixing room with a mean diacetyl concentration of 38 ppm (STD 28 ppm). Strong exposure-response relationships existed between quartile of estimated cumulative exposures to diacetyl and respirable dust and frequency and degree of airway obstruction. Longitudinal medical and environmental study are ongoing at this plant to ensure that exposure control steps are effective.
Respiratory-system-disorders; Exposure-levels; Workers; Lung-disease; Air-flow; Clinical-tests; Industrial-hygiene; Respirable-dust; Organic-compounds; Ketones; Qualitative-analysis; Sampling
78-93-3; 431-03-8
Publication Date
Document Type
Fiscal Year
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Disease and Injury: Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Source Name
American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, June 1-6, 2002, San Diego, California
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division