Popcorn Lung is a disorder which took its name from the original case study of the disorder. Stemming from a chemical named diacetyl, its name came from the fact that the chemical was used to create the buttery texture of popcorn. After a worker at a popcorn factory begun to get ill in the 1990’s, it was soon revealed that his illness wasn’t flu or asthma, but popcorn lung or bronchiolitis obliterans a rare form of lung disease, leading to his lungs falling to 18 percent of their former capacity at the early age of 27. On top of this he was told that within 10 years he would need both of his lungs transplanted.
So, from this horror story stemming from the 90’s and the mistreatment of a worker, where does vaping come in? Diacetyl is the link. Not only is it present in butter popcorn, but also has been known to be used in some vape products.
What is Diacetyl?
This organic compound is often used in alcohol and many foodstuffs as well as having been found in cigarette smoke and ecig vapour. As a naturally occurring compound it is used in many flavourings and is not thought to be dangerous in small doses. However, when Eric Peoples was diagnosed with popcorn lung, he had been exposed to 70 times the normal amount.
Should we be worried?
Whilst cigarette smoke does contain diacetyl it is not the chemical which causes damage to the lungs, that’s mainly down to the over 300 carcinogens in the smoke. On top of this, e cigarette vapour contains a hundred times less diacetyl than cigarettes do, making them even less dangerous. In recent studies such as one undertaken by a Professor Siegel, it was found that e-liquid contained an average of 750 times less diacetyl than tobacco smoke.
To further the reassurance, recent years have seen the cutting down of diacetyl in e cigarette flavours, most companies staying clear of the chemical so as to make sure people feel safe when vaping.