Diacetyl is the chemical that imparts the buttery flavor to popcorn and other foods. As far back as 2004, information began to suggest that it causes the lung disease, bronchiolitis obliterans, a rare but serious lung disease.
It was appropriately named “Popcorn Workers Lungs” because the first cases appeared in popcorn maker’s facilities where the diacetyl can be heated and workers exposed day after day. Incidentally, diacetyl is not just used in popcorn factories, but in other food processing where a buttery taste is desired such as in sauces, prepared noodles, macaroni & cheese, and other prepared foods.
In September 2007, OSHA issued a warning of the possible dangers to workers in such locations where diacetyl (also called butanedione or 2,3 – butanedione Cas#431-03-8) is processed and urged employers who use diacetyl to include it in their Hazard Communication Programs and limit workers exposure as much as possible.
On January 21, 2009, OSHA proposed a rule governing diacetyl and food flavoring containing diacetyl (See Federal Register Pages 74:3937-3947 or go to OSHA’s website at http//www.osha.gov and type in DIACETYL). The January 21st notice was only a proposed rulemaking and a search for information on its uses, research studies on human exposure and available information on safe/unsafe exposure levels for workers in facilities where diacetyl is handled.
After a lengthy period of time (possibility late in 2009) OSHA will publish the information gathered and possibly propose a regulatory standard.
On February 24, 2009, OSHA published Chemical Sampling Information on diacetyl including sampling methods and known hazards – basically a MSDS - (www.osha.gov/dts/chemicalsampling/date/ch_231710.html)
Atlantic Environmental does have the ability to sample for diacetyl, evaluate exposures and develop controls.