Pennsylvanians who work in food-processing factories have more occupational hazards to worry about than the dangers posed by industrial equipment. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, exposure to flavoring chemicals, such as those added during the manufacture of microwave popcorn and naturally released by coffee bean processing, could contribute to workers contracting permanent respiratory diseases. This is generally known as flavorings-related lung disease.
NIOSH reports indicate that states like Missouri have sought assistance quantifying the relationship between diseases like obliterative bronchiolitis and occupational conditions in microwave popcorn factories since as early as 2000. Obliterative bronchiolitis sufferers experience coughing, problems breathing following physical exertion and general wheezing. The disease is characterized by scarring and blockages that affect the lung’s smallest air passages. Although many workers noticed their symptoms growing worse over time, some experienced sudden onsets and issues like weight loss, fevers or intense sweating.
Obstructive bronchiolitis symptoms can persist even after workers take extended breaks or vacations from their jobs. Diagnosis may require X-rays or other imaging, special breathing tests and lung biopsies. Unfortunately, most sufferers are resistant to medical treatment, although people who stop exposing themselves to vapors from flavoring chemicals are at reduced risk of coughing, chemical burns and ocular irritation.
Occupational exposure can result in lasting diseases that permanently reduce people’s quality of life or prevent them from supporting themselves professionally. Employers may fight claims that conditions in their facilities contributed to a victim’s disease, and victims might not even know their employment made them sick. In some cases, workplace illnesses can end up being fatal. Those who suspect they have contracted an occupational disease may benefit from the assistance of an attorney in navigating the workers’ compensation process.