Diacetyl Likely the Cause of Lung Disease

If you need diacetyl sampling/testing assistance as discussed in this article call us at 1-800-344-4414 or email us at info@atlenv.com for details and a free estimate.

OSHA Seeks to Regulate the Use of Diacetyl

Written by Robert E. Sheriff, MS, CIH, CSP, President

November 9, 2018

Diacetyl is the chemical that imparts the artificial buttery flavor to popcorn and other foods. As far back as 2004, information began to suggest that it causes the lung disease, bronchiolitis obliterans, a rare but serious lung disease.

It was appropriately named “Popcorn Workers Lungs” because the first cases appeared in popcorn makers’ facilities where the diacetyl can be heated and workers exposed day after day. Incidentally, diacetyl is not just used in popcorn factories, but in other food processing where a buttery taste is desired such as in sauces, prepared noodles, macaroni & cheese, and other prepared foods.

The benefit of diacetyl is that it is volatile – it evaporates readily to give a sweet fresh pleasant odor.  Of course this is now recognized as the problem – when inhaled it can damage the lungs!

In September 2007, OSHA issued a warning of the possible dangers to workers in such locations where diacetyl (also called butanedione or 2,3 – butanedione Cas#431-03-8) is processed and urged employers who use diacetyl to include it in their Hazard Communication Programs and limit workers exposure as much as possible.

On January 21, 2009, OSHA proposed a rule governing diacetyl and food flavoring containing diacetyl (See Federal Register Pages 74:3937-3947 or go to OSHA’s website at www.osha.gov and type in DIACETYL). The January 21st notice was only a proposed rulemaking and a source for information on its uses, research studies on human exposure and available information on safe/unsafe exposure levels for workers in facilities where diacetyl is handled.

On February 24, 2009, OSHA published Chemical Sampling/Testing Information on diacetyl including sampling/testing methods and known hazards – basically a MSDS: www.osha.gov/dts/chemicalsampling/date/ch_231710.html

In October 2017, NIOSH published an alert to industry on the hazards of diacetyl .  There guidance is to protect workers with respirator protection or even better – find a less hazardous substitute as a popcorn or cheese flavoring.  (https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/flavorings/control.html)

Atlantic Environmental has the ability to sample for diacetyl, evaluate exposures and develop controls. For additional information contact us at info@atlenv.com or call us at 1-800-344-4414.

Our primary service areas for Diacetyl Testing/Sampling are: NJ, NY, NYC, PA, CT, DE, (Boston) MA, RI, Wash DC, WI, MD, MI, (Chicago) IL, VA, IN, (Atlanta) GA, AL, NC, SC, TN, (Dallas, Ft Worth) TX, OK, DC, AR, we can service most other areas of the U.S. but with some added travel charges.