Diacetyl exposures in the flavor manufacturing industry

J Occup Environ Hyg. 2008 Nov;5(11):679-88. doi: 10.1080/15459620802368463.


Recently, worker exposures to diacetyl, a chemical used in the production of butter popcorn, has been linked to bronchiolitis obliterans, a severe lung disease. This chemical is also used in the flavor industry to confer a buttery flavor to many food products, with more than 228,000 pounds used in 2005. Diacetyl exposures were monitored at 16 small-to medium-sized flavor facilities to determine potential diacetyl exposures. A total of 181 diacetyl samples (both personal and area samples) were obtained, and a number of real-time samples were collected using an IR spectrometer. Samples were obtained during liquid and powder compounding operations at the facilities as well as during laboratory and QC operations. The personal and area samples ranged from non-detectable (<0.02 ppm) to as high as 60 ppm. Ninety-two (51%) of the samples were below the limit of detection, and the mean diacetyl concentration for all processes was 1.80 ppm. Mean diacetyl levels during powder operations were generally higher (4.24 ppm) than mean diacetyl levels during liquid operations (2.02 ppm). Maximum real-time diacetyl exposures during powder operations could reach as high as 525 ppm. These results are similar to exposures measured by NIOSH in popcorn facilities where lung disease was found; however, the duration of use and frequency of use may be significantly lower.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / analysis*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis
  • Bronchiolitis Obliterans / chemically induced
  • Butter
  • Diacetyl / adverse effects
  • Diacetyl / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Flavoring Agents
  • Food Industry*
  • Humans
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Occupational Exposure / classification*


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Flavoring Agents
  • Butter
  • Diacetyl