NIOSH Releases New Fact Sheet on Diacetyl Exposure

NIOSH recently compiled a fact sheet on lung disease that can result from exposure to flavoring chemicals containing diacetyl.

Severe obstructive lung disease has been identified in people who work with flavoring chemicals containing diacetyl, including butter flavoring. Cases of severe lung disease have occurred in microwave popcorn plants and flavoring production plants. Lung biopsies in some affected people have shown the presence of a rare condition; constrictive bronchiolitis obliterans (also referred to as constrictive bronchiolitis, obliterative bronchiolitis, and bronchiolitis obliterans). In some workers, fixed airways obstruction has been severe enough to be fatal.

Who is at risk?

Workers who make, use, or work near flavoring chemicals containing diacetyl may be at risk. Settings where these exposures may occur include:

  • Flavoring plants
  • Microwave popcorn plants
  • Commercial and retail bakeries
  • Snack food and candy plants
  • Dairy products and packaged vegetable oil plants (e.g., margarine, cooking oil)
  • Other flavored food production plants

While exposures in the flavoring industry and in microwave popcorn production have caused severe lung disease in some workers, the degree of risk to workers from exposures in other work settings is currently unknown.

Symptoms are not present in all cases. When present, symp¬toms can range in severity. The main respiratory symptoms experienced by workers include:

  • Cough (usually without phlegm)
  • Shortness of breath on exertion
  • Wheezing

Other symptoms experienced by some workers include:

  • Fever, night sweats, or weight loss
  • Frequent or persistent eye, nose, throat, or skin irritation

In cases of flavoring-related lung disease, respiratory symp¬toms do not typically improve when the worker goes home at the end of the workday, on weekends, or on vacations. The symptoms often have a gradual onset but can occur suddenly. Work-related exposure to butter flavoring chemicals might also lead to asthma or exacerbate pre-existing asthma.

Medical testing may include the following:

  • Spirometry most often shows an obstructive pattern of ventilatory impairment that does not improve after bronchodilators and sometimes shows a restrictive pattern of ventilatory impairment. Careful comparison of spirometry test results over time is important to identify potentially concerning declines in lung function.
  • Lung volume assessments are consistent with hyperinflation.
  • Carbon monoxide diffusing capacity measurement is generally normal, especially early in the disease.
  • Chest X-rays are usually normal but may show hyperinflation.
  • High-resolution computerized tomography scans of the chest at full inspiration and expiration often reveal heterogeneous air trapping on the expiratory view and may demonstrate mosaic attenuation, bronchial wall thickening, cylindric bronchiectasis, and/or scattered ground glass opacities.
  • Lung biopsies are not generally required for diagnosis, but may reveal evidence of constrictive bronchiolitis obliterans. Sometimes the term clinical bronchiolitis obliterans is used for patients who have medical test findings consistent with the disease constrictive bronchiolitis obliterans but do not have confirmatory biopsy results.

Workers with flavoring-related lung disease should be removed from further exposure and relocated within the facility to areas where they will not be exposed to diacetyl or similar flavoring chemicals.

Remind patients of the importance of:

  • Keeping flavoring containers tightly closed when not in use to prevent the contents from getting into the air.
  • Reading and understanding labels on containers and material safety data sheets for substances that they are exposed to in the workplace.

Encourage patients to talk to their supervisors about:

  • Training on hazard identification, procedures for safe handling of flavoring chemicals, and symptoms of flavoring-related lung disease.
  • Exposure control methods (e.g., ventilation, isolation) and work practices (e.g., standard procedures for cleaning the workplace and for handling and storing flavoring chemicals).
  • Wearing respirators (protective breathing equipment) and other personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves, eye goggles) to reduce exposures.

Click here to read to entire fact sheet.

Download Center

HTML - No Current Item Deck
  • Free Safety Management Software Demo

    IndustrySafe Safety Management Software helps organizations to improve safety by providing a comprehensive toolset of software modules to help businesses identify trouble spots; reduce claims, lost days, OSHA fines; and more.

  • Track Key Safety Performance Indicators

    IndustrySafe’s Dashboard Module allows organizations to easily track safety KPIs and metrics. Gain increased visibility into your business’ operations and safety data.

  • Analyze Incident Data

    Collect relevant incident data, analyze trends, and generate accurate regulatory reports, including OSHA 300, 300A, and 301 logs, through IndustrySafe’s extensive incident reporting and investigation module.

  • Safety Training 101

    When it comes to safety training, no matter the industry, there are always questions regarding requirements and certifications. We’ve put together a guide on key safety training topics, requirements for certifications, and answers to common training questions.

  • Conduct EHS Inspections and Audits

    Record and manage your organization’s inspection data with IndustrySafe’s Inspections module. IndustrySafe’s pre-built forms and checklists may be used as is, or can be customized to better suit the needs of your organization.

  • Industry Safe
comments powered by Disqus

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - March 2019

    March 2019


      Not Your Grandpa's Ear Muffs 
      Far Too Many Fatal Falls
      Marijuana in the Workplace
      Ladder Safety Tips
    View This Issue