By Lee Parsons:
Workplace deaths soar in Canada
29 December 2006
An average of five workers died each workday in Canada last year from accidents and job-related disease, reports a study published earlier this month.
This represents an increase of 18 percent over 2004 and an alarming 45 percent increase over the level in 1993.
This carnage, which saw 1,097 workers killed in job-related activity in 2005, is an indictment of Canada’s workplace-safety record.
But what makes it all the more damning is that Canada’s workplace fatality rate is among the highest in the industrialized world.
The 119 page report, entitled “Five Deaths a Day: Workplace Fatalities in Canada, 1993-2005,” was prepared by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards (CSLS), a government-funded group, that in this study drew on statistics compiled by the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC).
Unsafe work in Britain: here.
“butter” flavoring in popcorn and other foods
Posted by: “bigraccoon” email@example.com redwoodsaurus
Wed Sep 5, 2007 8:22 pm (PST)
September 5, 2007
Doctor Links a Man’s Illness to a Microwave Popcorn Habit
A fondness for microwave buttered popcorn may have led a 53-year-old
Colorado man to develop a serious lung condition that until now has been
found only in people working in popcorn plants.
Lung specialists and even a top industry official say the case, the first
of its kind, raises serious concerns about the safety of microwave
“We’ve all been working on the workplace safety side of this, but the
potential for consumer exposure is very concerning,” said John B.
Hallagan, general counsel for the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers
Association of the United States, a trade association of companies that
make butter flavorings for popcorn producers. “Are there other cases out
there? There could be.”
A spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration said that the agency
was considering the case as part of a review of the safety of diacetyl,
which adds the buttery taste to many microwave popcorns, including Orville
Redenbacher and Act II.
Producers of microwave popcorn said their products were safe.
“We’re incredibly interested in learning more about this case. However, we
are confident that our product is safe for consumers’ normal everyday use
in the home,” said Stephanie Childs, a spokeswoman for ConAgra Foods, the
nation’s largest maker of microwave popcorn.
Ms. Childs said ConAgra planned to remove diacetyl from its microwave
popcorn products “in the near future.”
Pop Weaver, another large microwave popcorn producer, has already taken
diacetyl out of its popcorn bags “because of consumer concerns” but not
because the company believes the chemical is unsafe for consumers, said
Cathy Yingling, a company spokeswoman.
The case will most likely accelerate calls on Capitol Hill for the Bush
administration to crack down on the use of diacetyl. The Occupational
Safety and Health Administration has been criticized as doing little to
protect workers in popcorn plants despite years of studying the issue.
“The government is not doing anything,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro,
a Connecticut Democrat who leads a subcommittee with jurisdiction over the
food and drug agency’s budget.
Exposure to synthetic butter in food production and flavoring plants has
been linked to hundreds of cases of workers whose lungs have been damaged
or destroyed. Diacetyl is found naturally in milk, cheese, butter and
Heated diacetyl becomes a vapor and, when inhaled over a long period of
time, seems to lead the small airways in the lungs to become swollen and
scarred. Sufferers can breathe in deeply, but they have difficulty
exhaling. The severe form of the disease is called bronchiolitis
obliterans or “popcorn workers’ lung,” which can be fatal.
Dr. Cecile Rose, director of the occupational disease clinical programs at
National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, said that she first
saw the Colorado man in February after another doctor could not figure out
what was causing his distress. Dr. Rose described the case in a recent
letter to government agencies.
A furniture salesman, the man was becoming increasingly short of breath.
He had never smoked and was overweight. His illness had been diagnosed as
hypersensitivity pneumonitis, an inflammation of the lungs usually caused
by chronic exposure to bacteria, mold or dust. Farmers and bird
enthusiasts are frequent sufferers.
But nothing in the Colorado man’s history suggested that he was breathing
in excessive amounts of mold or bird droppings, Dr. Rose said. She has
consulted to flavorings manufacturers for years about “popcorn workers’
lung,” and said that something about the man’s tests appeared similar to
those of the workers.
“I said to him, This is a very weird question, but bear with me. But are
you around a lot of popcorn?’” Dr. Rose asked. “His jaw dropped and he
said, How could you possibly know that about me? I am Mr. Popcorn. I love
The man told Dr. Rose that he had eaten microwave popcorn at least twice a
day for more than 10 years.
“When he broke open the bags, after the steam came out, he would often
inhale the fragrance because he liked it so much,” Dr. Rose said. “That’s
heated diacetyl, which we know from the workers’ studies is the highest
Dr. Rose measured levels of diacetyl in the man’s home after he made
popcorn and found levels of the chemical were similar to those in
microwave popcorn plants. She asked the man to stop eating microwave
“He was really upset that he couldn’t have it anymore,” Dr. Rose said.
“But he complied.”
Six months later, the man has lost 50 pounds and his lung function has not
only stopped deteriorating but has actually improved slightly, Dr. Rose
“This is not a definitive causal link, but it raises a lot of questions
and supports the recommendation that more work needs to be done,” Dr. Rose
– – – –
Popcorn supplier to drop toxic chemical
Consumer’s lung disease may be linked to flavoring
ConAgra, the world’s largest supplier of the 3 billion bags of microwave
popcorn sold each year, said Tuesday that it will eliminate the use of a
controversial chemical butter flavoring linked to severe lung disease in
workers from its Act II and Orville Redenbacher products.
The announcement comes a week after Pop Weaver, the nation’s
second-largest popcorn producer, said it already had pulled the synthetic
flavoring — diacetyl — from its microwave product delivered to stores
Meanwhile, a lung specialist from Denver’s National Jewish Medical and
Research Center has notified federal agencies that she may have identified
the first known case of a man who ate popcorn at home and had the same
disease as the workers.
Lung specialist Dr. Cecile Rose wrote to the Food and Drug Administration,
the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration in July,
advising them of her patient and the possibility that people who pop
microwave corn at home can be at risk.
The rare lung disease that Rose diagnosed in her patient — bronchiolitis
obliterans — can cause death in severe cases. Lung transplants are the
only hope that patients have. The disease quickly leads to breathing
difficulties and is often misidentified by physicians unfamiliar with the
It has been found coast-to-coast in workers in plants that make and use
flavorings, in candy factories and in a dozen different food production
operations that use the synthetic chemical butter flavoring.
A naturally occurring substance found in many dairy products, diacetyl was
first produced synthetically in Europe and is added to thousands of
products throughout the world to increase or enrich butter flavoring.
Rose told the federal health agencies that her patient had a similar
clinical finding to the affected factory workers but his only exposure to
diacetyl was as “a heavy, daily consumer of butter flavored microwave
Rose said that her team had measured the diacetyl released in the
patient’s home when the popcorn was microwaved and found levels equal to
what the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health found when
it began investigating worker exposure in Midwest popcorn plants in 2001.
The reaction from the health agencies she contacted has been minimal.
“I am surprised that none of the regulatory agencies has called me to
learn more about the case,” said the pulmonologist, but Rose added that
she has received “numerous calls from industry representatives who were
very interested in hearing more details than were presented in my letter.”
Rose admits that it’s difficult to make a positive link based on a single
report but added, “We have no other plausible explanation.”
Her letter prompted this response from Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif.,
chairwoman of a work force protection subcommittee:
“The reported case of a consumer diagnosed with popcorn lung underscores
the need for our public health agencies to take this hazard more
seriously, not only for workers, but for consumers as well. While OSHA is
dragging its feet over the numerous reports of workers who have died or
suffered serious lung disease from exposure to diacetyl, this new case
raises concerns that consumers may be at risk as well.”
However, Rose’s case may be the second possible “home exposure” reported
to a government agency.
Last year, Dr. Allan Parmet, a national recognized occupational medicine
specialist who was the first to diagnose the illnesses in popcorn workers,
referred a case to the Illinois state health department.
The 6-year-old child was the son of a popcorn plant employee who had
full-blown bronchiolitis obliterans.
The man told Parmet that his son was showing symptoms identical to his.
When his plant closed, the company told the employees they could help
themselves to the products — and Parmet’s patient took home a large
quantity of butter-flavored oil, which he told the doctor he used almost
continuously for frying.
“The fumes filled his trailer,” Parmet said. “I was concerned about what
the child had inhaled so I sent a report to Illinois health officials, and
they just didn’t care.”
Dr. David Egilman, an occupation medicine specialist, has examined and
testified for many of the workers injured by diacetyl.
“People need to realize that these illness and deaths were completely
preventable,” Egilman said. “They occurred because the companies who make
these products hid the information on toxicity and control the regulatory
process. … An emasculated government public health community that is
subservient to corporate profits cannot protect us — even from popcorn.”
Weaver, the first microwave popcorn company to remove diacetyl, said it
had taken its action because of concerns for consumers who were “growing
more anxious” over the presence of the chemical.
On Tuesday, ConAgra corporate spokeswoman Stephanie Childs said no date
for the production of popcorn without the flavoring had been determined,
but it would be in the “near future.” The action will be taken to protect
ConAgra workers, she said.
“Our scientists are working to find an appropriate substitute.”
Workers from ConAgra were among more than 200 employees from six Midwest
microwave popcorn plants whose lungs were damaged or destroyed by exposure
to the butter flavoring used in the bags.
Although diacetyl may have serious public health consequences beyond the
workplace, only the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health
has done extensive research on diacetyl in the workplace. Other agencies
bounce responsibility for diacetyl in consumer products elsewhere.
The only agency studying how much diacetyl is generated in home
microwaving is the EPA, but it has been sitting on the results of its
research for more than two years. It is looking at the vapors as an air
The EPA’s explanation for not sharing its finding with the public health
community or other federal investigators was that it did not want to
endanger its scientist’s chance of having her research published in a
When asked Tuesday what its reaction was to Rose’s letter, the agency
released this statement: “EPA scientists do cutting-edge research to
protect public health. EPA’s popcorn study was of emissions, not health
DIACETYL IN FOOD
Diacetyl is a naturally occurring substance found in many dairy products
and some wine. It was first produced synthetically in Europe and is added
to thousands of foods throughout the world to increase or enrich butter
flavoring. It is found in microwave popcorn, potato chips, baked goods and
candies, frozen food, artificial butter, cooking oils, beer, dog food and
HOW DIACETYL HARMS PEOPLE
Worker hazards: In manufacturing plants, it’s been linked to bronchiolitis
obliterans — irreversible obstructive lung diseases — for which lung
transplants are often the only way to survive. Lawsuits against diacetyl
manufacturers by hundreds of workers in popcorn, flavoring and other food
plants claiming injury from breathing diacetyl have led to jury awards and
settlements of more than $20 million.
Consumer hazards: The Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer
Product Safety Commission have declined to study the effect on consumers.
The Environmental Protection Agency has looked at the vapors from heated
diacetyl as an air pollutant but has not released the results to the
public or to public health professionals.
‘Precari’ at risk of impotence
Young men on temporary contracts may face sexual problems
(ANSA) – Roma, May 14 – Italian men on temporary job contracts may have to worry about impotence as well as paying the bills, a leading urologist said on Wednesday.
Speaking ahead of a national urology conference, Florence Urology Clinic Director Marco Carini said not having a permanent work contract put young men at risk of either erectile disfunction or premature ejaculation.
”For young people, job insecurity, economic difficulties and the impossibility of starting a family are sources of anxiety and stress and can have serious repercussions on their sex lives,” Carini said.
”If there is no stable partner, added to the stress is the performance anxiety that can flare up during occasional relations,” he added.
According to Carini, premature ejaculation afflicts between 25 and 30% of young men, while erectile disfunction is a problem for 35% of men under 35 and 47% of those over 36.
Around a million Italian men work as so-called ‘precari’ – people with temporary contracts or other forms of contract that give them little or no job protection or social security cover – according to figures from national statistics bureau Istat.
Seven out of ten people with temporary contracts live with their parents, Istat said.
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