Popcorn Lung: Causes, Treatment, and Recourse
Popcorn lung, or bronchiolitis obliterans as it is otherwise known, is a lung disease caused by exposure to and inhalation of various chemicals. One of the chemicals, diacetyl, is why the disease has its most common name, Popcorn lung.
Diacetyl is a chemical that was once commonly found in the butter flavoring of microwave popcorn. While diacetyl is generally considered safe to eat, research has indicated that it can be dangerous and cause popcorn lung if it is inhaled in large quantities. This was originally discovered as workers at microwave popcorn factories around the country were found to be at an increased risk of the disease.
However, since that time, individuals with the disease have successfully argued making microwave popcorn in their home caused their case of popcorn lung. One man was even awarded $7 million in damages because he developed the disease after eating two bags of microwave popcorn a day for ten years.
Today, while many microwave popcorn manufacturers have taken diacetyl out of their products, the chemical is still found in e-cigarettes. In fact, researchers at Harvard found that over 75 percent of e-cigarettes on the market contain diacetyl.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Popcorn Lung
The easiest way to tell if a person has popcorn lung is by paying close attention to their symptoms. Most symptoms set in several weeks after exposure to diacetyl and can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Dry cough
- Flu-like symptoms
- Chest pain
It should be noted that in many cases popcorn lung is misdiagnosed as asthma or bronchitis. However, whereas asthma especially can be more episodic, popcorn lung brings with it symptoms that are more consistently manifested.
There are several ways to diagnose popcorn lung, including:
- A pulmonary function test
- A Chest X-Ray
- A CT scan
Perhaps the best way to diagnose popcorn lung, though, is with a lung biopsy. If you suspect you might have popcorn lung, be sure to explain to your doctor your symptoms thoroughly and accurately. You should also mention whether or not you have been exposed to chemicals such as diacetyl.
Treatment for Popcorn Lung
Currently, no cure for popcorn lung exists. There are, however, a variety of things your doctor might prescribe in order to reduce and manage symptoms.
In some cases, patients with popcorn lung have done well by taking cough suppressants or bronchodilators. The latter work to open the airways in your lungs allowing you to breathe more easily.
Oxygen supplements have also been prescribed with some success. Finally, in the most severe cases, a lung transplant may be considered.
It is important you consult with your doctor as soon as possible, as, if left untreated, popcorn lung can become fatal.
You Could Be Eligible For Compensation
If you suspect or have a confirmed case of popcorn lung, and you suspect your injury is work-related, you should also contact a qualified personal injury lawyer. Diagnosis and treatment of popcorn lung will not only be stressful, but they could also be costly.
Under Texas law, individuals who have incurred medical expenses, have lost wages, or endured significant pain and suffering may have the right to receive compensation for those damages.
A skilled personal injury lawyer will know what steps to take to analyze your case. They will also know how to put together the necessary documentation to persuasively argue that your exposure to a dangerous chemical at work is the cause of your condition. If successful, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits and, in some cases, damages through a third party claim.