Food flavoring commonly found in popcorn and in air during certain food production processes is causing severe lung and respiratory illnesses among plant workers, reports EHS Today.

Respiratory illnesses account for about 2.5 percent of the total recordable illness distribution in food manufacturing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As research is performed on the effects on additives and flavorings during the production process, the CDC and NIOSH continue to make recommendations to protect workers.

The latest published recommendations focus on obliterative bronchiolitis, a respiratory condition most commonly found with popcorn manufacturing workers.

Symptoms of the disease include cough, wheezing and worsening shortness of breath on exertion, ranging from mild to severe. The symptoms typically do not improve when the worker goes home at the end of the workday or on weekends or vacations, are gradual in onset and progressive or suddenly can become severe, according to NIOSH.

The flavorings causing the disease are diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione, two compounds which are also found in cigarette and some flavored e-cigarettes.

Because of the severity of the illness, NIOSH recommends food manufacturers who use diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione in the production process.

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