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Popcorn on a Lung Xray

Popcorn Lung: A Teenage Epidemic

What was once infecting factory workers has now been making teenagers sick. The culprit? A chemical found in vape carts.

Popcorn lung. It sounds ridiculous – almost like something you’d see in Willy Wonka. And while there’s no real popcorn involved in this silly sounding disease, popcorn lung can be deadly.

“Popcorn lung” is a nickname for the disease Bronchiolitis Obliterans, a chronic lung disease that damages the smallest airways in your lungs. So where did the name “popcorn lung” come from? Back in the year 2000, doctors encountered a rare lung disorder in the bodies of workers who worked in the local microwave-popcorn factory.  The workers were incredibly ill and had trouble breathing – some were so ill that they were put on a list for lung transplants. The doctors were puzzled at the outbreak, so they did a little detective work. The culprit? A chemical called diacetyl used in the factory to flavor popcorn, caramel, and dairy products. Diacetyl was being heated up and inhaled by the workers, scarring the tiny air sacs in the lungs and causing difficulty breathing.

Immediately the manufacturers began to stop using diacetyl as a flavoring agent in their products. Cases of popcorn lung dropped and time moved on. Then about a decade later, cases of popcorn lung began to skyrocket. But these cases weren’t found in factory workers…they were found in teenagers. How could these teens be getting sick from a disease that was tied to a flavoring chemical?

Vaping, that’s how. Even though diacetyl had been removed from food manufacturing years before, vape manufacturers are still to this day using the exact same chemical – diacetyl – that infected those factory workers years ago. Diacetyl is being used in vape juice for the same reason as it was used in those factory products: flavoring. Is it worth it to risk the health of teenagers so that they can have flavored vape juice? 75% of vape manufacturers don’t seem to have any problem with it!

Let’s be real – the companies that sell vapes and vape juice don’t care about your health. We as a society are more aware of lung health than ever before due to Covid-19, but vape manufacturers are still putting their users at risk by using these dangerous chemicals in their products. If they don’t care about something that has very clear effects on your personal health, what will they ever care about?

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