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Pop Fiction

Just when you thought it was safe… POPCORN!

It’s been found that even enjoying a light fluffy snack can be harmful to your health.

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, a jury in a U.S. federal case awarded Wayne Watson, 59, of Denver, Colorado, over $7 million for damages to his health from eating popcorn. interviewed Watson in 2007, when he stated that he was “averaging two bags of popcorn a day.”

Gilster-Mary Lee Corp., the Illinois manufacturer of the popcorn, and the grocer that sold it, The Kroger Co., were found to be negligent.

They used the compound diacetyl (AKA butanedione) in their butter flavoring but failed to put on the label that it could potentially cause health problems. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), diacetyl is a natural byproduct of the fermentation process that can also be created synthetically. It is used to create a buttery flavor and odor, most commonly in microwavable popcorn.

Diacetyl has been linked to a chronic pulmonary disorder called bronchiolitis obliterans, sometimes referred to as popcorn lung, which makes it difficult for a person to exhale; the lungs straining to expel air.

But don’t rush to throw out your popcorn stash just yet. There are other factors to consider.

The condition was found before in popcorn plant employees, and has been upheld in court cases spanning the last 15 years. But Watson is the first consumer diagnosed with popcorn lung. According to the, he claimed that he ate 2 bags daily for over 10 years. It was only after years of eating the same brand of popcorn that the levels of diacetyl in his body must have been great enough to cause his health to suffer.

So if you want to avoid bronchiolitis obliterans, exhibit some moderation when inhaling your popcorn fumes, and remember to pace yourself. You should do just fine.