Lung Disease Linked to Flavorings

Food FlavoringsStephen M. Black is a Regents’ Professor at Georgia Regents University and a highly respected member of the medical community. In recent years, Stephen M. Black has shifted his focus to research and has a number of active grants. One topic covered by grants is acute lung injury. In his studies, he has discovered that exposure to flavoring chemicals may be linked to lung disease.

Flavorings, which are mixtures of both natural and man-made substances, are added to foods to enhance the taste. While the Food and Drug Administration recognizes these flavorings as safe to eat, they are still harmful in certain forms and amounts. Factory workers who are exposed to the chemicals for a prolonged period of time are most at risk.

According to the NIOSH Alert: Preventing Lung Disease in Workers Who Use or Make Flavorings, the flavorings industry has estimated nearly 1,000 flavoring ingredients with irritant and volatile properties that could irritate the eyes, skin, and result in respiratory problems. Applying heat to the chemicals can also increase exposure. Industries who manufacture products with Diacetyl chemicals (butter flavoring chemicals), such as popcorn, can cause severe lung disease in workers.

According to the United States Department of Labor, an investigation of a popcorn plant was investigated in 2000 due to a cluster of employees who developed the rare lung disease, bronchiolitis obliterans. This life-threatening disease causes the small airway branches in the lungs to become compressed by scar tissue or inflammation. The investigation concluded that there was “a risk for occupational lung disease in workers with inhalation exposure to butter flavored chemicals.” Since then, the disease has earned the term “popcorn lung.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers protection to workers exposed to diacetyl, but no specific standards are in place to protect from occupational exposure.

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Overview of Lung Diseases


Stephen M. Black has categorized Lung Diseases into 3 different groups.

Stephen M. Black is a research chemist who specializes in Molecular Pharmacology and Molecular Endocrinology. Recently, he and his team of researchers have uncovered a new therapeutic treatment target for treating acute lung injury. To understand how this treatment works, it is important to understand the many diseases that can greatly affect a person’s quality of life.

Unfortunately, lung diseases are quite common and ten of millions suffer from lung disease in the United States alone. Frequent causes of lung disease can be attributed to genetics, infections, and smoking. The number of lung diseases are plentiful, and can break down into three categories: lung diseases that affect the air sacs, lung diseases that affect the airways, and lung diseases that affect the interstitium.

Lung Diseases Affecting the Air Sacs

  • Pneumonia: an infection usually caused by bacteria that affects the alveoli.
  • Lung cancer: often occurs in the main part of the lung, near the air sacs and have many forms.
  • Pulmonary edema: caused when fluid leaks from the lung’s small blood vessels into the air sacs.
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome: sudden, severe injury to the lungs that usually requires mechanical ventilation until they recover.
  • Tuberculosis: slowly progressive pneumonia caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
  • Emphysema: a result of damage to the connections between alveoli, typically caused by smoking.
  • Pneumoconiosis: conditions caused by the inhalation of dangerous substances that injure the lungs.

Lung Diseases Affecting the Airways

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a lung condition inhibiting a person to exhale normally.
  • Chronic bronchitis: a form of COPD that causes a chronic cough.
  • Emphysema: lung damage that traps air in the lungs.
  • Acute bronchitis: a virus that causes a sudden infection of the airways.
  • Cystic fibrosis: a genetic condition that causes an accumulation of mucus resulting in repeated lung infections.
  • Asthma: a condition where the airways are consistently inflamed, resulting in wheezing and shortness of breath.

Lung Diseases Affecting the Interstitium

  • Interstitial lung disease: a collection of lung conditions that affect the interstitium.
  • Pneumonia and pulmonary edemas: these lung diseases that affect the air sacs can also affect the interstitium.

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