Jason Stephens | July 8, 2020 | Product Liability
Popcorn lung is an odd nickname to give to a disease. Yet, it is the nickname used for a medical condition called bronchiolitis obliterans. Even though the nickname sounds silly, the condition is very serious.
What Is Bronchiolitis Obliterans?
Bronchiolitis obliterans is an inflammatory condition of the lung’s bronchioles, which are the smallest airways in the lungs. The infection can cause severe damage and scarring in the lungs, which can block the airways. The blockage can cause a lack of oxygen throughout the entire body.
Signs and symptoms of popcorn lung include:
- shortness of breath
- dry cough
However, some patients have reported other symptoms associated with popcorn lung, including flu-like symptoms, weight loss, night sweats, and fevers. In some cases, a person may also develop inflammation of the nose, ears, throat, and skin from long-term exposure to the chemicals that can cause popcorn lung.
What Causes Popcorn Lung?
The nickname “Popcorn Lung” originates from one of the common causes of bronchiolitis obliterans. A reported outbreak of the condition was reported in 2000 among workers in a microwave popcorn factory. Each of the workers developed bronchiolitis obliterans after working in the factory.
Researchers concluded that the workers contracted the condition after inhaling the chemical used to flavor the buttered microwave popcorn. The name of the chemical used was Diacetyl. Further studies revealed that even short-term exposure to the chemical could cause damage to the airways in the lungs.
In addition to being used in microwave popcorn, Diacetyl has also been found in e-cigarette flavorings used in Juul Vape Pens and other devices. However, microwave popcorn flavoring and e-cigarette flavoring are not the only causes of popcorn lung. A NIOSH report stated that over a thousand flavoring ingredients could pose respiratory hazards.
Exposure to other chemicals has been associated with bronchiolitis obliterans. Some of the chemicals that may cause popcorn lung include, but might not be limited to:
- Nitrous Oxide,
- Hydrochloric Acid,
- Sulfur Dioxide from Burning Fossil Fuels,
- Mustard Gas, and
- Byproducts of Welding (Welder’s Disease).
In addition to chemicals, certain conditions can cause popcorn lung, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. The disease can also develop as a side effect or complication of a lung transplant or rheumatoid arthritis.
Diagnosing and Treating Popcorn Lung
After determining that the patient has the symptoms of popcorn lung and may have a risk factor for the condition, a doctor may use a variety of diagnostic tests to detect popcorn lung. Doctors may perform chest x-rays and CT scans to look at the lungs. They also may perform a lung volume test and a lung tissue biopsy to identify the disease.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for popcorn lung. Some treatments could slow down the progress of the disease, but they do not stop the disease from worsening. Doctors can only prescribe treatments for the symptoms.
Some of the medications used to treat the symptoms of popcorn lung include:
- Oxygen Therapy
- Immunosuppressive Drugs
- Cough Suppressors
In severe cases of popcorn lung, a lung transplant may be necessary to save a person’s life. However, it can be difficult to find a donor for a lung transplant. Additionally, lung transplants have risks and may not prevent death if the disease returns after the lung transplant.
Can I Recover Compensation for Popcorn Lung?
Popcorn lung lawsuits may result in compensation for injuries, losses, and damages associated with bronchiolitis obliterans. Workers in microwave popcorn factories and other facilities using flavoring chemicals or other chemicals associated with the disease have a high risk of developing the condition.
Safety measures should be taken by the business to protect workers from the dangers associated with these chemicals. Personal protective gear and adequate ventilation are just two of the safety measures that should be in place to reduce the risk of developing popcorn lung.
You may be entitled to compensation if a party was negligent or committed intentional wrongdoing that exposed you to chemicals or conditions that caused your condition. Examples of negligence that could lead to a personal injury claim include, but are not limited to:
- failing to explain the side effects of popcorn long to factory workers;
- failing to adequately warn workers of the dangers and risks of working with and inhaling chemical vapors;
- failing to provide adequate ventilation and safety equipment for workers;
- failing to monitor the levels of the chemicals in the air within the factory; and,
- violation of state or federal regulations and standards for the use of chemicals in manufacturing facilities.
If you are diagnosed with popcorn lung or another lung disease, talk with your physician about the potential causes of the disease. You should also speak with an experienced mass torts lawyer to learn about your legal rights and options regarding a personal injury claim.