The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called for more protections for coffee workers and others who are working in the food industry. The CDC has warned that there is a potential for contracting deadly and permanent lung diseases in this industry because of exposure. What causes it? It’s a chemical called diacetyl. This chemical is used when making popcorn, coffee and other food and beverages.
Usually, this chemical is safe to consume when it is consumed in trace amounts. However, workers who work around it often inhale it, and this can be deadly. The chemical exposure occurs during the coffee roasting process and is also released in high concentrations when the beans are ground or taken out of storage bins. The chemical also creates a buttery flavor that is added to food items. It’s been estimated that around 600,000 people alone have been exposed to diacetyl.
It was in the early-to-mid-2000s when scientists linked diacetyl to deaths and injuries in the popcorn factories around the nation. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health had drafted recommendations for exposure limits in 2011, but those limits were never finalized.
What is the NIOSH considering as its main factors for exposure limits? It wants to see evidence-based real health risks, engineering feasibility and analytical analysis. Basically, it wants to see how many people are getting hurt, if the industry can actually reduce exposure and understand better how exposure is measured. There are no regulations yet, but recommended exposure limits are 10 parts per billion per eight-hour shift. For workers in the industry, these limits aren’t always enforced, and that can lead to serious injury and death. If your family has been affected by the impact of diacetyl, it’s worth looking into your legal options. The dangers of the chemical are known and having an impact on real people.
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “CDC calls for protections for coffee workers, others in food industry,” Raquel Rutledge, Nov. 01, 2016