Popcorn Lung: What E-Cigarette Users Should Know About this Deadly Disease

A respiratory disease for years associated with the food industry is now believed to have ties to some e-cigarette products. The disease, known informally as popcorn lung, affects the tiny airways of the lungs known as bronchioles and can lead to long-term health issues for those afflicted.

This article was written to discuss the disorder known as popcorn lung, its relation to the vaping industry, and to help those who believe they might be affected to decide whether or not they should discuss their issue with a personal injury attorney. If you have questions about anything discussed in this article, contact our office for more information.


Some Basic Information About Popcorn Lung

The official medical name for popcorn lung is obliterative bronchiolitis. The disease, which has long been linked with industrial food processing, affects airways in the lung known as bronchioles. The name popcorn lung came to be used after several workers at a microwave popcorn plant in 2000 developed symptoms of the disease, which includes coughing without phlegm, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms can include night sweats, fever and weight loss. In some cases, the disease is misdiagnosed as emphysema, pneumonia or bronchitis. Unfortunately for those afflicted with popcorn lung, the disease is progressive and irreversible.

What Causes Popcorn Lung, and What is its Connection to Vaping?

When the term popcorn lung was first used in connection with afflicted workers in the popcorn factory, the cause of the workers’ symptoms was determined to be a food additive known as diacetyl, a compound used to give microwave popcorn its buttery flavor.

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report the workers would add the flavoring and other ingredients to a large heated tank, which produced “visible dust, aerosol and vapors with a strong buttery odor.”

So, what does this have to do with vaping and e-cigarette use? According to the results of a study published in December 2015 by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, diacetyl was discovered in several electronic cigarettes and refill liquids studied by the researchers.

The study’s researchers purchased 51 e-cigarette flavors online and in retail locations. Diacetyl was found to be present in 39 of the samples tested. These samples included a range of flavorings, or vape juice, including candy and fruit-flavored samples, as well as classic and menthol-flavored liquids.

E-cigarettes come in a wide range of sizes and configurations. However, each device generally features a mouth piece which connects to a tank of liquid containing nicotine and flavorings. This tank is connected to a heating element, which when activated, heats the liquid to a vapor, and is then inhaled into the lungs.


What Does this Mean for Vape Users?

While the Harvard study described in this article appears to establish a link between a specific health risk and e-cigarettes, it’s important to keep in mind that popcorn lung is a rare disease. Still, the potential for permanent health does exist if you use e-cigarettes. If you’re an e-cigarrete user, and you’ve experienced any of the following symptoms, particularly if they get progressively worse, or don’t improve, contact a doctor:

  • Cough (with or without phlegm)
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Night Sweats
  • Weight Loss

If you or your doctor suspect your illness is related to vape usage, it’s highly recommended you contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your options.

What Can a Person Recover in this Type of Personal Injury Case?

It’s impossible to put a specific number on the outcome of any legal settlement or judgment. However, a person who wins a personal injury lawsuit could potentially be entitled to the following compensation:

  • Pain and Suffering
  • Medical Costs
  • Attorney’s Fees
  • Punitive Damages

Have Questions? Contact Our Office

The purpose of this article isn’t to scare those who enjoy vape products or e-cigarettes. Rather, it was designed to give hope to those who may be suffering serious and unexpected health consequences as the result of their vape use. If you suspect that you developed obliterative bronchiolitis as the result of e-cigarette use, or perhaps through exposure elsewhere, it could well be worth your time and effort to discuss your situation with a qualified personal injury attorney. It’s important to remember that in many personal injury cases, the clock starts ticking once the injury occurs, and a statute of limitations may apply. If you have questions about any of the topics discussed on this page, or a related personal injury issue, contact our office to learn more.

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