Microwaving Cancer With Your Popcorn?

If you’re considering popping microwave popcorn this holiday season for stringing on your Christmas Tree, you might want to think about what you’re doing. There’s been quite a lot of buzz in the news, etc. lately about how such a simple snack can be so dangerous to your health.

First up seems to be the bag you pop it in, the one it comes in. The popcorn bags are made out of paper that has to be coated with a substance to repel grease and moisture so the bag doesn't become soggy and rip while you‘re heating it up. The chemicals used to coat the paper break down when heated in to a substance called perfluorooctanoic (PFOA). The Environmental Protection Agency has identified PFOA as a "likely carcinogen." While they don’t know how much actually seeps into the popcorn, they think it is a “small amount”. So my questions would be “how small an amount” and “how small is still too much”?

Next up comes that great buttery taste we all know and love.

Consumers may be in danger of contracting "popcorn lung disease" from diacetyl fumes created while microwaving popcorn. Diacetyl is a component of the artificial butter flavor. It is used for aroma and taste in butter, some cheeses and snack and bakery products. In tests at NIOSH, laboratory rats that breathed high concentrations of vapors from butter flavoring, including diacetyl, developed significant airway damage.

In a July warning letter to federal regulators made public on September 4, 2007, Dr. Cecil Rose of Denver's National Jewish Medical and Research Center says doctors believe they have the first case of a consumer who developed lung disease as a result of repeated daily exposure to fumes from microwaving popcorn. According to an ABC News story dated May of this year, “Connecticut state Rep. Rosa Delauro is asking the FDA to ban the chemical until it can be proven safe to consumers.

"We need to revoke its designation, test it further and protect the public health," Delauro said.
Flavoring manufacturers have paid more than $100 million as a result of suits brought by workers affected by popcorn lung. In California, a bill is being considered to ban its use in the state.

OSHA has been looking at this since 1999 and done little.There is no published research on the exposure of consumers to the heated vapors of diacetyl and other chemicals released when microwave popcorn is popped. In the middle of 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that a study on the chemicals released in the popping and opening of packages of microwave popcorn was underway and was expected to be completed by the end of that year. The EPA has yet to disclose the results of that study.

As for me and the little ones, I think I’ll pop corn the ‘old fashion way’.

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