Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Microwave Popcorn

September 5, 2007

Doctors Link Illness to a Microwave Popcorn Habit

By Gardiner Harris

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 butter-flavored popcorn.
“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 U.S. 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 other products.

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 popcorn.’ ”

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 risk.”

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 popcorn.

“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 said.
“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 said.

Monday, March 19, 2007

are you kidding?

A passenger in first class woke up to a shock when he found himself sitting near a corpse on a British Airways flight, British newspapers reported on Monday.

Paul Trinder, 54, said cabin crew moved the body of the elderly woman from the economy section where she had died after take-off, the Mirror and Sun tabloids said.

"The corpse was strapped into the seat but because of turbulence it kept slipping down on to the floor," Trinder, a businessman, was quoted as saying. "It was horrific. The body had to be wedged in place with lots of pillows."

The woman's daughter was also upgraded and spent the rest of the nine-hour flight from Delhi to London grieving next to her dead mother, the Sun reported.

The Guardian newspaper said the incident happened last week.

British Airways has apologized for any distress suffered, according to the reports. The Mirror quoted BA as saying: "We apologize, but our crew were working in difficult circumstances and chose the option they thought would cause least disruption."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Who is Dumb Little Man?

It is not often these days that I find a site that has extremely useful information for me. I have been reading this site for a couple months now and I am constantly amazed at all the useful tips.

Some of their recent topics:
  • 40+ Tips to Improve your Grammar and Punctuation
  • 20 tips that got me an IT promotion
  • 250 Free Microsoft Office Templates
  • 50 Tools that can Improve your Writing Skills
  • 50+ Ways a Manager can get Employees to Quit
  • A Lawyer's Advice: How to deal with Cops

I am here now to share this with the world. Below is a little bit about them, in their own words:

"Who is Dumb Little Man?
So what is Dumb Little Man, who is behind it and where the hell did that name come from?My name is Jay White and I own Dumb Little Man. Perhaps the better phrase is that I own the content because yes, this is a Blogger blog that has been very heavily tweaked. I have 2 co-anchors on my little site, Frank and Mark. We are all based in Chicago.I will be completely honest when I say that the name Dumb Little Man was picked for absolutely no reason. In fact, the site basically sat unused for 6 months after I first chose the name. Then in March of 2006 we began posting.......decided Dumb Little Man and it's content would focus on all of our skills; however, we don't get ridiculously deep on any single topic.

Think about it, how could I post about ways of depreciating assets and then 5 minutes later have Mark give a tutorial on php? It couldn't happen.So here we are with a lot of varying knowledge and a weird sounding name. ....To set your expectation, on average we post 10-20 items per week.All three of us hope you'll stick around, enjoy the content and learn something. If you think we are hitting a topic to hard, let's us know. If you want to see something else, recommend it. While we do enjoy Dumb Little Man, it makes our efforts worthwhile if you do too. Thanks.Jay, Frank, Mark"