Coffee roasters may be at risk for developing popcorn lung, an occupational illness
. The illness is caused by inhaling diacetyl fumes, a common product of microwave popcorn, flavorings and foods. Some flavored coffees use diacetyl flavoring. When roasted, workers can inhale the fumes.
Popcorn lung is a progressive illness that can permanently damage the airways. Workers with the illness will have permanent shortness of breath, dry cough and wheezing. The only known cure is lung transplant. Many physicians may misdiagnose popcorn lung, mistaking it for asthma or other more common conditions.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recommended exposure limits for diacetyl, but no regulations currently exist to protect workers. In an article published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
, it was suggested that coffee roasters are exposed to four times the limit recommended by the NIOSH.
What Happens To Coffee Roasters Who Develop Popcorn Lung?
The report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
tells the story of coffee roasters working at a factory in Tyler, Texas. Every day, workers poured vats of diacetyl onto coffee beans. Some of the workers developed popcorn lung, at first mistaking it for allergies. One worker developed the condition after only 18 months on the job, and now even walking up a flight of stairs is exceptionally difficult. Doctors told the worker his life expectancy would be dramatically shortened due to developing the condition.
Occupational illnesses can occur in many different industries. Workers’ afflicted by occupational illnesses might be eligible for workers’ compensation or disability benefits.
Larrimer & Larrimer, LLC
– Columbus Workers’ Comp Lawyer