lungs with popcorn in them

Popcorn Lung

When I was young, before COPD, a good night was making popcorn! Dad had this heavy pan, with a lid. He or I would put oil in the bottom of the pan, just enough to cover it. Once it was hot, in would go the popcorn. It would be put on the hot burner and periodically we would shake it. That was hard work, especially when younger, because the pan was so heavy. You knew it was done when the popping slowed. Then off came the lid and we’d pour it into a big bowl with salt and butter. The only thing better was around Christmas when we made popcorn balls. They are so good. My aunt and uncle would give us a bag of candy, nuts, an apple, a quarter and always a popcorn ball.

Who can go to the movies without a bucket of popcorn and a big glass of pop? It may be soda where you are at. It would last the whole movie! I might have gone back for Milk Duds too.

Jiffy Pop popcorn was also so exciting and fun to make.

Light weight and you knew when it was done when the top expanded and filled up. The salt and butter were in with the popcorn, but sometimes we would add our own. It was so good and I didn’t have to wash the pan.

Then came the creation of the microwave oven. Soon to follow was microwave popcorn or popcorn in a bag. It was so easy to just put the bag in the microwave. The bag told you what side faced up and what setting to use. You could hear the popping and smell the wonderful smell of buttery popcorn. Over time, there has been a variety of flavorings. And now bags where you can have salt, light salt, caramel, 100-calorie, movie butter, regular butter and more. I could even burn the popcorn.

Popcorn could be an easy filler while dieting, or craving a snack. I think we had popcorn about every night. Very frequent for sure.

In May of 2007, I was at the National Jewish Medical Center in Denver, where I was diagnosed with COPD.

It was there that I heard about popcorn affecting a person’s breathing and lungs.

There I heard about Popcorn Lung. Popcorn Lung is an irreversible scarring in the smallest airways in the lungs. This mainly affects those who work in the popcorn manufacturing plants or even in the flavoring facilities, where they breathe in vapors of the buttery, tasty chemical called Diacetyl. This is a natural ingredient that is in butter, cheese yogurt and even wine, which manufacturers use to flavor their popcorn1.

Diacetyl isn’t harmful when swallowed, but if large amounts are inhaled, it can damage lungs. There have been severe cases where the employees had to have lung transplants. Diacetyl also causes a shortness of breath, wheezing, dry cough, phlegm, fatigue, headache, aches, pains and nausea. The vapors can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat and skin. It may lead to fixed airway restriction or obstruction. Diacetyl is also known as butanedione, 2,3-butandedione and food flavorings containing diacetyl (FFCD)2.

But it’s not just popcorn. Diacetyl is also used to flavor some e-cigarettes.

They can be very damaging to lungs when inhaled.

I know that Popcorn Lung didn’t cause my COPD, however, it could affect my breathing. I seldom have popcorn anymore and now have an air popper.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
View References
  1. National Jewish Hospital. Bronchiolitis obliterans. https://www.nationaljewish.org/conditions/bronchiolitis-obliterans .
  2. Popcorn Lung: A Dangerous Risk of Flavored E-Cigarettes http://www.lung.org/about-us/blog/2016/07/popcorn-lung-risk-ecigs.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

Comments

View Comments (15)
  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    For those of you just tuning in now to this article from our own Janet Plank, published earlier this year in January (2018), I thought it might be interesting to look over this material from the FDA on this related topic: http://www.aarc.org/nn18-fda-111518-statement-e-cigarettes/.
    Wishing everyone well!
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Janet Plank moderator author
    3 months ago

    Thank you Leon
    Janet

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Happy to add the reference, Janet!
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Barbara Moore moderator
    3 months ago

    Great article Janet Plank,
    It is true that many that suffer from COPD, have it for reasons other than smoking.
    Thank you for this informative article. Barbara (Site Moderator)

  • Janet Plank moderator author
    1 year ago

    Susanmarie, let us know how your quit 51 clinic goes. I sure hope that you can get to that place where you can let the cigarettes go.
    When I quit, I was up to 3 packs a day, in July, I will be 15 years quit.
    Know that you aren’t alone.

  • Susanmarie
    1 year ago

    Hi Janet. I was discussing going back on my vape with my son, He appeared somewhat concerned, please don,t go back on that mom, he said, have you not seen the news about popcorn lung, It appears there is quite a story in the media about it at the moment, so glad my son pointed it out to me and the possible dangers of the flavourings used in such vapes etc. Your info is valuable, our lungs are bad enough, I shall not be using any such things when I stop smoking.

  • Janet Plank moderator author
    1 year ago

    Susanmarie, thank you. How fascinating that your son was so aware! I see that Leon posted a link on e-cigarettes for you.
    I’m glad that this article is helpful for you. Please stay in touch and let us know how you are doing. Know that we are here for you too.
    Janet (site moderator)

  • Susanmarie
    1 year ago

    Hi Janet, yes my Son was quick on the mark with that.I have an appointment to go to quit 51 clinic, not sure how this will work for me but giving it a try, I have not vaped, I am still smoking, but have cut down, fingers crossed..

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi Susanmarie and thanks for your post. As you expressed concerns about vaping and quitting smoking in another forum, I was able to guide you there to this article on e-cigarettes – I think you will find it to be helpful:https://copd.net/clinical/what-are-e-cigarettes/.
    Warm regards,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    It’s my pleasure, Susanmarie!
    Warmly,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Susanmarie
    1 year ago

    Thank you Leon

  • Nj
    1 year ago

    You have numbers for references. Where are the references listed?? Don’t see at bottom of page. If we just pop our own popcorn, natural, it doesn’t have all those flavorings in it, like commercial ones, so why would that be bad??

    I could see working in a factory with the chemical additives, but not just plain popcorn at home. Does REAL butter or margarine have diacetyl? If not, why scare everyone into not eating popcorn?

  • Janet Plank moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi NJ, at the bottom of the article, there is a place to view references. I’m not sure how easy it is for you to see. Here are the references that I used:

    National Jewish Hospital. Bronchiolitis obliterans. https://www.nationaljewish.org/conditions/bronchiolitis-obliterans .

    Popcorn Lung: A Dangerous Risk of Flavored E-Cigarettes http://www.lung.org/about-us/blog/2016/07/popcorn-lung-risk-ecigs.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

    Thank you,
    Janet (moderator)

  • KevinDavitt
    1 year ago

    An incredible story, Janet. Thank you for the education – Kevin

  • Janet Plank moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thank you Kevin. It was one that really made me aware.
    Janet (moderator)

  • Poll