A new study that is published in the current issue of the journal Chest says that people working in organizations that make popcorn are at a heightened health risk from neutrophilic airway inflammation.
Researchers from Morgantown, WV, Bethesda, MD, and San Francisco, CA, administered a questionnaire, spirometry testing, and sputum induction to 81 workers employed by a popcorn factory.
Fifty-nine workers had a history of high exposure to popcorn flavoring vapors, with positions in mixing, microwave packing, maintenance, and quality control, while 22 workers had a low exposure to flavoring vapors, with positions in office, polyethylene packaging, warehouse, and outside sections of the plant.
Study results show that neutrophil concentrations in nonsmoking workers were significantly higher than those of the healthy nonsmoking control group, and sputum interleukin-8 and eosinophil cationic protein levels were higher in high-exposure workers than in low-exposure workers.
These findings indicate that high exposure to popcorn flavoring agents is significantly associated with neutrophilic airway inflammation in popcorn production workers. Neutrophilic airways inflammation is a potentially important underlying factor in the development of the bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS), previously documented in workers at this plant.