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California Ban on Diacetyl?

Flavoring-Factory Illnesses Raise Inquiries – New York Times

For a good background on flavoring-factory lung disease (formerly known as popcorn worker’s lung), check out the Pump Handle’s many posts, especially this recent one. Short primer, diacetyl is the chemical that gives popcorn its so called buttery taste (and smell, it’s fake!!). Well, there’s pretty good evidence that diacetyl causes bronchiolitis obliterans. Some symptoms…

Bronchiolitis obliterans renders its victims unable to exert even a little energy without becoming winded or faint.

“The airways to the lung have been eaten up,” said Barbara Materna, the chief of the occupational health branch in the California Department of Health Services. “They can’t work anymore, and they can’t walk a short distance without severe shortness of breath.”

OSHA has been unwilling to seriously regulate diacetyl, so California, as it is wont to do, is considering banning this killer chemical.

But in California, which has 28 flavoring plants known to use diacetyl, some legislators and government officials seem unwilling to wait. A bill to ban diacetyl in the workplace by 2010 has passed two committees in the State Assembly and could be taken up by the full body this summer. It is the first proposal of its kind in the nation. Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, the author of the bill, said she introduced it because of what she said was the slow response by the flavoring industry, which is largely self-regulating on occupational safety. “What we’ve heard is that the flavoring industry has known for years that this is potentially a problem, and they haven’t taken action,” said Ms. Lieber, a Democrat.

I am all for California’s regulation. But as written, this law will only protect workers in California. They should also consider going one step further by restricting the use of diacetyl in food sold in California. Only then can the giant market that is California exert its influence on the diacetyl manufacturers and users.

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