Popcorn Lung Idea: Debunked

Many people quit their smoking habit and transitioned into electronic cigarettes because they were deemed healthier with far less harmful chemicals. Recently there have been studies and reports surfacing that could now alter that statement.

The Popcorn Lung Discovery

The ‘popcorn lung’ disease was discovered in 2004 by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after multiple cases of workers in a microwave popcorn plant began developing bronchiolitis obliterans. This disease results in the tiny air sacs in the lungs to become scarred. It is a severe and irreversible disease. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted an investigation and it was discovered that the flavoring agent that gives popcorn that buttery flavor was the culprit. When the workers inhaled the chemical Diacetyl, they began having symptoms of shortness of breath and a cough, similar to having COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

In 2015, it was discovered that Diacetyl was found in the e-liquid juices used for vaping and electronic cigarettes. A Harvard research team examined 51 various electronic cigarettes and e-liquids and found that 75% of the juices contained that dangerous flavoring chemical. When the chemical Diacetyl is heated or vaporized the inhalation of these flavoring chemicals in the e-cigarettes creates an exposure pathway for those flavorings which is incredibly similar to the workers at the microwave popcorn facilities.

The Environmental Health Perspectives conducted a study highlighting that the e-liquid juices that are fruity, candy, and cocktail like flavors such as butterscotch, pina colada, and cupcake have that buttery taste due to Diacetyl.

The Bottom Line

With all of this said, although there have not been cases of individuals developing popcorn lungs from inhaling vapors from electronic cigarettes, you may want to consider consulting with your doctor about popcorn lungs and if you are at a high risk of developing it. If you begin having symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, fever, night sweats, or weight loss contact your doctor right away.