NPR : News

Man Wins $7 Million In Suit Claiming Microwave Popcorn Caused Lung Disease

A federal court has awarded a Denver man $7.2 million in a lawsuit he filed against a popcorn maker and a grocery store for selling him microwaved popcorn that made him sick.

According to ABC News, furniture salesman Wayne Watson developed respiratory problems known as "popcorn lung" in 2007 after eating about two bags of popcorn every day for 10 years. "I probably look like a fairly healthy guy, but I only have, on a good day, about 53 percent lung capacity," Watson tells ABC.

The defendants in the case were Glister-Mary Lee, which makes popcorn, Kroger and its subsidiary, Dillon Cos. They had argued that Watson's work with carpet cleaning chemicals caused his illness.

"At this time we intend to file an appeal of the decision," Kelli McGannon, a spokeswoman for King Soopers, which is owned by Dillon Cos., a subsidiary of Kroger, tells the Denver Post.

Chester, Ill.-based Glister-Mary Lee executives issued a statement to a local TV station that it was evaluating "next steps."

In fact, many companies have been evaluating their "next steps" regarding diacetyl, a chemical used to create that unique dairy flavor — without actually using any dairy — in butter-flavored microwave popcorn and other snacks.

The lung problems described by Watson are relatively rare and have generally been limited to workers in the plants who handle the chemical — but documented case are severe, according to a briefing paper by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. And many manufacturers are phasing diacetyl out for these reasons.

Workers' unions have been calling for an end to its use in food products for years, and a recent study even linked the chemical to an abnormal brain protein associated with Alzheimer's.

However, it's not really known how much exposure to diacetyl is safe. "OSHA does not have permissible exposure limits (PELs) for most flavoring substances, including diacetyl and acetoin [a substitute of diacetyl]," the paper notes.

Stay tuned for more on the science of food additives from us.

Meanwhile, CNBC predicts the recent verdict will spark a rash of future lawsuits.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Art Beat With Lauren Landau, Aug. 3, 2015

You can hear female vocalists perform blues and bluegrass at two concerts this week.

WAMU 88.5

Farms, Coasts And Air Conditioning: What Climate Change Means For Virginia

Climate change presents obstacles for just about everywhere in the United States — but rising temperatures are expected to be felt keenly in a number of Virginia's important economic areas.

NPR

Obama To Detail Tougher Plan To Fight Climate Change

President Obama will unveil climate change regulations Monday, expected to set tougher limits on coal than previously proposed. NPR's Scott Horsley previews the announcement with host Rachel Martin.
NPR

Despite Host Controversy, Amazon Takes A Chance On 'Top Gear'

The trio that made Top Gear the world's biggest car show will return to the small screen in a new show for Amazon Prime. The BBC canned one of its hosts last year after a fight with a producer.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.