Dozens of Ohio plant workers have filed lawsuits against makers of a chemical used in a buttery flavoring for microwave popcorn. According to the workers, their lungs have been damaged by inhaling the fumes from the chemical. Some of the plaintiffs are from a plant of Givaudan Flavors Corp. and some of the workers are from a ConAgra Foods plant in Ohio.
A 2002 article in the New England Journal of Medicine reported on a study of workers at a microwave popcorn production plant. The study showed that plant workers had 2.6 times the expected rates of chronic cough and shortness of breath and twice the expected rates of physician-diagnosed asthma. Further, higher rates of shortness of breath on exertion and skin problems were found in workers directly involved in microwave popcorn production. According to the study, the inhalation of volatile butter-flavoring ingredients likely caused occupational bronchiolitis obliterans in that working population.