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Out of the Ordinary

Colorado man diagnosed with ‘popcorn lung’

A man developed a lung condition from eating his favorite buttered popcorn

Wayne Watson, 59, developed a lung condition known as ‘popcorn lung’ from eating buttered microwave popcorn. Watson filed a lawsuit claiming the packaging of the popcorn did not contain any warnings about the dangers of the chemical that is used to give the product its buttery taste—diacetyl. Because of this chemical, Watson has developed an irreversible lung condition and has won a $7.2 million lawsuit.

The Colorado man was diagnosed in 2007 after eating two bags of the popcorn a day for years. The condition is caused by inhaling the popcorn’s vapor, more specifically, diacetyl, which has been previously linked to lung problems in workers in popcorn plants. Due to the problems it has caused, the chemical is no longer added to artificial butter.

A jury found the manufacturer, Gilster-Mary Lee Corp and Kroger Co., guilty of failing to provide the popcorn packaging with the proper warnings. The manufacturer issued a statement:

“Gilster-Mary Lee Corp. has manufactured and provided safe, quality microwave popcorn to consumers for over two decades. We are certainly very disappointed by the decision of the jury in this case in light of the very clear evidence which was presented, including the millions of consumers who have safely used and enjoyed microwave popcorn since it was introduced. We are currently evaluating our next steps in this matter and will assert all rights available to use under the law.”

As far as Watson’s popcorn eating habits now, he says “I haven’t eaten a bag of popcorn since 2007. I hardly eat popcorn anymore. Occasionally we’ll pop some on the stove the old fashioned way.”

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