In Your Food: Popcorn – Bad for your Lungs

This week’s post is a little different. I wanted to talk about an important news story that broke yesterday. Here’s a link to it at, one of the first papers to report.

Man wins $7MILLION in ‘Popcorn Lung’ lawsuit that blamed supermarket chain for selling chemically hazardous microwave popcorn

I have a friend who also suffers from popcorn lung (different friend – not the one with the corn allergy). I used to see her a lot, but she had to move away from my area, to a lower elevation, because she couldn’t breathe at 5000 feet.

The flavoring in question is called diacetyl. It’s one of the ingredients that gives microwave popcorn its buttery flavor and aroma. If you make microwave popcorn, DON’T INHALE THE STEAM. This is what causes popcorn lung.

Some popcorn manufacturers are now labeling their products “no diacetyl,” but I have heard that they just tweaked the flavoring and gave it a new name and are still using it. This is a fight that’s going to continue, and more people are going to be hurt before it’s over.

From the article:

“It first came to public attention when eight former employees of the Gilster-Mary Lee popcorn plant in Jasper, Missouri, developed bronchiolitis obliterans in the late 1990s…in 2000, the Missouri Department of Health called in The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to make a determination of the cause, and to recommend safety measures…After surveying the plant and each patient’s medical history, NIOSH recommended respiratory protection for all workers in microwave popcorn production.”

This is seriously nasty stuff.

I ditched all my microwave popcorn except for this organic brand, with no added flavoring, which I found at Vitamin Cottage:

It’s more expensive, but I don’t regret a single penny. I love popcorn, but it’s not worth risking my ability to breathe, thank you.




In Your Food: Popcorn – Bad for your Lungs — 11 Comments

  1. Out of curiosity, how much microwave popcorn did your friend eat? I ask because the guy in the Guardian article claimed to have eaten three bags a day, which is considerable exposure; and popcorn workers are, by their nature, exposed to an unusual degree. I’m trying to understand what the overall exposure risk is (not that I mess about with my lungs. I’m fond of them; they make so many things possible).

  2. I hung onto my old air popper because I can control the portion size and the amount of melted butter or margarine I add and the salt factor.

    Microwave popcorn may be convenient but It was always too greasy, too salty, and the portion size huge. Been doing this for 20 years or more.

  3. It works pretty well to put ordinary bulk popcorn in a plain paper bag. Just keep an eye on it. No flavorings or salt; you can do what you want after it’s popped. I like a spray of olive oil and some wasabi powder.

  4. I don’t know exactly how much she ate. Might have been a daily snack, but I don’t think it was anything extreme. She ate it at work, and possibly other people there were also microwaving popcorn.

    My personal feeling is that it’s not worth even a minimal risk. My friend may have to get a lung transplant.

    Your mileage may vary.

  5. And for the nummiest possible popcorn, do it the old-fashioned way — a heavy lidded pot, a spoonful of oil, and plain poopcorn. Heat it until the corn starts to pop, and then turn it down and let it cook until it quits popping. Add butter.

  6. I’ll second the plain paper bag. I do it all the time for popcorn. There is absolutely no reason for anybody to ever use industrial-made microwave popcorn.

    1/4 cup kernels in a typical lunch-size paper bag, folded over a few times, and microwaved for 2 – 3 minutes (listen for the popping to slow down until there’s a pause of 2 or 3 seconds between pops).

    I realize microwaves come in different strengths, which is why you need to listen to the popping. Also, I think you need a microwave with a turnstile. I’ve never tried it in a microwave without one, so I don’t know if it works.

  7. Pingback: In Your Food: Popcorn – Bad for your Lungs | Book View Cafe Blog | Marlene Dotterer

  8. I always buy bagged popcorn. I have a microwave popper. Put the kennels in the popper and put on whatever toppings when finished. Cheapest way..and healthiest. Old microwave had no turn table and it did work in there.