What is Coffee Worker Lung Disease?
If you have ever worked at a coffee manufacturing plant, you may be at risk of diacetyl exposure which can cause a deadly, irreversible lung disease known as obliterative bronchiolitis. The disease is “an inflammatory condition that affects the lung’s tiniest airways, the bronchioles.” Regular exposure to diacetyl and alpha-diketones chemicals causes the bronchioles to be injured, scarred, constricted, and smaller in size. Some workers have developed such severe, disabling lung disease that they have been placed on lung transplant waiting lists.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines “diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione (a diacetyl substitute) as volatile organic compounds known as alpha-diketones.” Occupational chemical exposures to diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione are produced during the flavoring process of common products such as microwave popcorn, bakery mixes, chewing gum, pet food, other food products, and even vaping or Juuling. However, the chemicals are produced naturally during the coffee bean roasting process, posing an even greater risk.
The chemicals are incredibly deadly with devastating, lasting effects.
Obliterative bronchiolitis is not unique to the coffee manufacturing industry and goes by many different names, depending on the flavoring manufacturing industry. In the microwave popcorn industry, is also referred to as popcorn lung. Manufacturers who use flavoring are putting their workers at risk of developing deadly lung disease. While referred to by many names, the outcome is detrimental for each individual diagnosed, no matter the industry.