Occupational Asthma Reference

Sahakian N, Kullman G, Lynch D, Kreiss K, Asthma arising in flavoring-exposed food production workers, Int J Occup Environ Health, 2008;21:173-177,

Keywords: popcorn, USA, new cause, air measurement, bronchiolitis obliterans, occupational asthma, aldehydes, diacetyl,

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Kay Kreiss, NIOSH, Morgantown USA Kay Kreiss

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While working for a small family-owned popcorn popping company, all of the three non-smoking workers developed a respiratory disease. Because of the newly identified associations between the flavoring chemicals and bronchiolitis obliterans, the specifics of these cases and their exposures were investigated to add to the body of knowledge of flavoring-related lung disease.


We obtained data on work processes as well as full-shift personal and area air samples for diacetyl, acetoin, 2-nonanone, acetaldehyde, and total volatile organic compounds. Air samples were collected on thermal desorption tubes for analysis by gas chromatography mass spectrometry. We also reviewed medical records and conducted interview with the workers.


Air samples representative of the exposures that exacerbated asthma symptoms in two workers contained many different aldehydes. The data from interview and medical records and the high resolution computed tomograms of the chest indicated the presence of occupational asthma in all the three workers and possible bronchiolitis obliterans in two of them. This case series emphasizes a need for exposure reduction and medical surveillance among workers exposed to flavoring chemicals, and provides evidence for an increased risk of occupational asthma, as well as bronchiolitis obliterans, in flavoring-exposed workers.

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