Fixed obstructive lung disease in workers at a microwave popcorn factory--Missouri, 2000-2002

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2002 Apr 26;51(16):345-7.


In May 2000, an occupational medicine physician contacted the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MoDHSS) to report eight cases of fixed obstructive lung disease in former workers of a microwave popcorn factory. Four of the patients were on lung transplant lists. All eight had a respiratory illness resembling bronchiolitis obliterans with symptoms of cough and dyspnea on exertion, had worked at the same popcorn factory (factory A) at some time during 1992-2000, and had spirometric test results that were lower than normal for both FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in 1 second) and FEV1/FVC (forced vital capacity) ratio. Employment durations ranged from 8 months to 9 years. MoDHSS requested assistance from CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in evaluating factory A for respiratory hazards to workers. This report summarizes the epidemiologic findings motivating the technical assistance request and preliminary results. The findings of this investigation indicate that workers exposed to flavorings at microwave popcorn factories are at risk for developing fixed obstructive lung disease. Public health authorities, employers, and health-care providers are collaborating to prevent obstructive lung disease in popcorn factory workers.

MeSH terms

  • Bronchiolitis Obliterans / epidemiology
  • Flavoring Agents / adverse effects*
  • Food-Processing Industry*
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / epidemiology*
  • Missouri
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Volatilization


  • Flavoring Agents