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Diacetyl emissions and airborne dust from butter flavorings used in microwave popcorn production.

Boylstein-R; Piacitelli-C; Grote-A; Kanwal-R; Kullman-G; Kreiss-K
J Occup Environ Hyg 2006 Oct; 3(10):530-535
In microwave popcorn workers, exposure to butter flavorings has been associated with fixed obstructive lung disease resembling bronchiolitis obliterans. Inhalation toxicology studies have shown severe respiratory effects in rats exposed to vapors from a paste butter flavoring, and to diacetyl, a diketone found in most butter flavorings. To gain a better understanding of worker exposures, we assessed diacetyl emissions and airborne dust levels from butter flavorings used by several microwave popcorn manufacturing companies. We heated bulk samples of 40 different butter flavorings (liquids, pastes, and powders) to approximately 50 degrees C and used gas chromatography, with a mass selective detector, to measure the relative abundance of volatile organic compounds emitted. Air sampling was conducted for diacetyl and for total and respirable dust during the mixing of powder, liquid, or paste flavorings with heated soybean oil at a microwave popcorn plant. To further examine the potential for respiratory exposures to powders, we measured dust generated during different simulated methods of manual handling of several powder butter flavorings. Powder flavorings were found to give off much lower diacetyl emissions than pastes or liquids. The mean diacetyl emissions from liquids and pastes were 64 and 26 times larger, respectively, than the mean of diacetyl emissions from powders. The median diacetyl emissions from liquids and pastes were 364 and 72 times larger, respectively, than the median of diacetyl emissions from powders. Fourteen of 16 powders had diacetyl emissions that were lower than the diacetyl emissions from any liquid flavoring and from most paste flavorings. However, simulated handling of powder flavorings showed that a substantial amount of the airborne dust generated was of respirable size and could thus pose its own respiratory hazard. Companies that use butter flavorings should consider substituting flavorings with lower diacetyl emissions and the use of ventilation and enclosure engineering controls to minimize exposures. Until controls are fully implemented, companies should institute mandatory respiratory protection for all exposed workers.
Organic-compounds; Etiology; Airway-obstruction; Workers; Inhalation-studies; Respiratory-irritants; Respiratory-system-disorders; Work-environment; Food-additives; Food-processing-industry; Food-processing-workers; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Pulmonary-disorders; Volatiles; Author Keywords: bronchiolitis obliterans; butter flavoring; diacetyl; microwave popcorn
Randy Boylstein, NIOSH, field Studies Branch, 1095 Willowdale Rd., Morgantown, WV 26505
431-03-8; 513-86-0
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Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division