//Vaping and Popcorn Lung Symptoms
Vaping and Popcorn Lung Symptoms 2018-03-05T11:06:50+00:00

Vaping and Popcorn Lung Symptoms

Wondering what is Popcorn Lung? This is a newly found disease, which is also called Bronchiolitis Obliterans. It reportedly causes coughing and wheezing, shortness of breath. In some extreme cases, the progress of popcorn lung symptoms may even require the patient getting a lung transplant. Researchers detected that the chemical components of 39 out of the 51 flavoring fluids used for vaping contained diacetyl– one of the causes of Popcorn Lung. So what does this mean for vapers? Read on to find out.

Popcorn Lung

What Is Popcorn Lung And Its Causes?

In a microwave popcorn factory in Missouri, many cases of Bronchiolitis Obliterans were reported in the year 2004 by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Bronchiolitis Obliterans is a severe and irreversible disease in which tiny air sacs present in lungs, become damaged.

This is also what is Popcorn Lung all about. After further investigation, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), discovered that Diacetyl, a flavoring agent, was being commonly used to give popcorn its buttery taste. While consumption of this flavoring agent was not harmful, inhaling it was claimed to be a likely contributing factor towards the development of Popcorn Lung.

More recently, a study carried out by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health discovered that a lot of juices used in e-cigarettes for vaping contain Diacetyl. This lead to a theory that inhalation of vapor that contains this chemical agent is dangerous for health.Popcorn Lung symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, which are the exact ailments of people diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Currently, this disease is irreversible.

Why is this Condition Called Popcorn Lung?

Between 1992 and 2000, CDC found at least eight cases of an irreversible lung disease in workers of Gilster-Mary Lee Corp., a southwest Missouri based popcorn factory. Diacetyl, a buttery flavor food chemical used in popcorn was found to be the culprit for causing Bronchiolitis Obliterans. The disease has the slang name of popcorn lung because of its association with the popcorn factory. The company ended up paying millions in lawsuits, and the of use diacetyl has been removed from food since.

What is Diacetyl?

Diacetyl is a chemical compound with formula (CH3CO)2. We find this food chemical in beans, butter, honey, dairy, coffee, fruits, apples, vinegar, and artichokes. In concentrated form, it becomes a yellow/green liquid and has rich buttery flavor. It is also called diketone, used as a flavoring agent, and classified safe to ingest.

However, many health professionals claim it is not safe to inhale. When it is heated under high pressure – for instance as in the case of Gilster-Mary Lee Corp., where workers would heat it up in microwave – it is believed to cause respiratory illnesses like Popcorn Lung symptoms.

Smoking and Popcorn Lung

As cigarettes contain diacetyl, it makes sense to be concerned if you’re a smoker. A study named “Determination of toxic carbonyl compounds in cigarette smoke” was published in 2006 that claimed that one cigarette could contain more than 400 micrograms of diacetyl, that is equivalent of 30 cartridges of e-liquid. Popcorn lung has never been diagnosed in smokers – or at least not because of smoking.

People who work in the factories and inhale it directly are the only ones diagnosed with it. That means diacetyl present in cigarettes does not cause popcorn lung, right? May be, but we are not completely certain about it as more research is required.

What is Batch Testing of E-Liquids?

Batch testing of e-liquids detected quantities of potentially risky chemicals like nicotine, diacetyl and acetyl propionyl in different batches of e-liquid bottles. These tests performed by accredited laboratories use scientifically verified procedures and analytical detection limits to test the presence of harmful chemicals.

As different flavors are formulated having varying ingredients, detection and quantification complications arise. Furthermore, they use state of the art instruments for testing, which are expensive themselves.

Another problem with batch testing is that the standards of safe vaping of diacetyl have not been determined yet. We do not know what the dangerous amount to inhale is or how the results of the test can be related to inhaling.

This leaves concerned vapers questioning what is Popcorn Lung and how to avoid it. If you are looking for an e-liquid that is diacetyl free, then it is easy to find one. There are even brands today that have displayed the testing results on their websites.

COPD and its Similarities to Popcorn Lung

COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is somewhat like popcorn lung symptoms. COPD is a disease that makes breathing difficult, but it develops over time. To understand the similarities we first have to know what causes the diseases.

Let’s talk about COPD first. The air goes through the windpipe into the lungs via two large tubes. Then the tubes are divided further into tree-like branches of smaller tubes ending in clusters of tiny air sacs. These air sacs contain thin walls having tiny blood vessels. As you inhale, it passes oxygen into the blood vessels, and it enters the bloodstream.

As we all know, we then exhale carbon dioxide as a result. The human lungs rely on the elasticity of the tubes and air sacs for forcing out air from the body. If you have COPD, they lose their elasticity and over-expand. Because of this, some air is left trapped in the lungs even while you exhale.

Now let’s see how it develops into popcorn lung. When a person inhales diacetyl, the tiny air sacs in their lungs become scarred, and they then thicken and narrow the airways. Although what is called popcorn lung (also known as bronchiolitis obliterans) does not sound dangerous, it is. It causes shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing.

Common symptoms of COPD include increased breathlessness even when you wake up at night, persistent cough, chest infection and wheezing. These signs are so similar to popcorn lung that often patients who have popcorn lung symptoms are misdiagnosed with COPD. The diagnosis of popcorn lungs and COPD both requires a risky invasive procedure called lung biopsy.

The procedure involves opening the chest of the patient to learn about the medical condition which caused the symptoms. Although the accurate diagnosis is difficult, there is no real benefit of performing this procedure.

Does Vaping Cause Popcorn Lung?

So as it turned out, it is not only microwave popcorn that uses diacetyl as a dangerous chemical flavoring. In 2015, the Environmental Health Perspectives published a journal that studied harmful chemicals linked to “Popcorn Lung”. This study also listed different types of e-cigarettes as items that contain Diacetyl, especially those that are flavored like candy and fruit, targeting young smokers.

An article on this study was published in The Independent, detailing the sampling and testing processes. 51 flavored e-cigarettes were tested, out of which 47 contained flavoring chemicals including diacetyl, more specifically in large amounts in 30 samples. It only makes sense that exposure to such dangerous chemicals through e-cigarettes or vaporizers can potentially lead to severe lung damage.

There are several vaping liquid brands and manufacturers that still use the chemical Diacetyl in their products, while others have either realized that it is hurting business, or turned it into a marketing strategy by branding their items as diacetyl-free. Some companies go to the extent of paying for chemical analysis of the products they offer, and in turn use the results for promotion and advertising purposes to health conscious people.

Of course, sometimes it is just a gimmick. We must warn you that it was reported in the news that two manufacturers were selling their products by labeling them as diacetyl-free, were using the chemical after an analysis of their products. Either way, despite the potential health hazards linked to vaping, many cigarette smokers still perceive vaping as a healthier alternative, believing it to be the lesser evil among the two.

The Counter-Argument

However, there is a debunk to all abovementioned reports and researches. Some people, including prominent reputable figures, claim that the fact that e-cigarettes contain diacetyl had been well-known even before the studies on this subject were published. They also state that e-cigarettes don’t have any more diacetyl than normal cigarettes. So far, it is believed that, while studying what was popcorn lung disease and what factors were likely to cause it, researchers had failed to deem cigarettes as a cause of Popcorn Lung disease.

The main counter-argument remains that the presence of diacetyl in certain levels was hardly a secret, even before the 2015 research study.

Side arguments say that the research from Harvard excluded comparison to a larger and more influential group of smokers when formulating concerns about popcorn lung symptoms, e-cigarettes, and diacetyl.

The final argument is that a research conducted on tobacco cigarettes determined that it is not a cause or risk factor for popcorn lung, despite containing higher traces of diacetyl. Seeing as how e-cigarettes contain a tiny concentration of diacetyl, their juice cannot possibly be linked as a cause of popcorn lung.

The Bottom Line

The Public Health England said in August that e-cigarettes are estimated 95 percent healthier than tobacco cigarettes, and help smokers quit smoking tobacco as well. A Government agency also noted that there is no hard evidence to support the fact that vaping specifically leads to popcorn lung disease. However, long-term effects of e-cigarettes are still under research.

For now, an easy solution that can be implemented is to common-sense and moderate legislation to stop the use of diacetyl and other similar harmful chemicals in vape juices. Another suggestion is time-consuming; conduct more research on vaping and create a standardized way to test it for any dangerous chemical agents. This alternative is robust, but some vaping companies such as the Five Pawns have been advocating for this and implementing it by paying for studies to be conducted on their products.

Till then, until the vaping industry has more transparency and evidence, activists, advocates and bloggers are constantly reminding the smoker community that vaping is overall, a much healthier option than cigarettes.

  1. comment-avatar

    Rhonda Sweatman

    November 15, 2017 at 5:01 pm Reply

    I just started using the Vaping the ECIGARETTE about 3 days ago. I have the my start USA mix Red 18mg. Im smoking MARLBORO FULL FAVOR. JUST WANT TO KNOW IF IT SAFE TO USE THE ECIG.

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    November 18, 2017 at 7:07 am Reply

    Great article thanks.
    I was diagnosed with COPD back in November 2015 after 40 years of smoking. I gave up for 12 months then back on the smokes again until April this year when my son introduced vaping to myself and my wife.
    So far so good.
    Is there any brands you know of that don’t contain that chemical.. diacetyl.
    I would probably make a good case study

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    November 18, 2017 at 7:33 pm Reply

    My questions centre on the longer period that a person can use the vapes as there is a period that one can toss away cigarettes and one will finish vaping.If by using the vapes for six months after giving up cigarettes and laying the vape down to throw it out is the best medicine.This is one option the other is to give up the cigarettes and not vape because of the possibility of popcorn lung is maybe certain –so be it.The product is still in great mysterious anomalies.

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      January 1, 2018 at 3:12 pm Reply

      Hi david, i too have smoked for 30 years, 2 packs a day and my husband was smoking twice that much. I tried and tried to quit, and failed . I prayed for something to come along to make me quit without withdrawl problems. Hence, the Ecig. I quit along with my husband, smoking cigerettes in the same day i started vaping. I do had a cough for approx 6 months after quitting. Long story short, i vape without nicotine now, weening down a little at a time, However, i do develope a cough that lasts about 2to 3 weeks every so often throughout the year. I have vaped for 4 years. I do find it hard to exhale and know not whether it comes from years of cigerettes or vaping a menthol flavor juice. I have suffered through breast cancer as well as a kidney disease and full body neuropathy. Vaping is a pleasure just as cigs were to some extent. I was unaware of this diacetyl until now. I am retired from the medical fied after 25 years. I would do not want to end up with COPD . Are you finding it easier to breath since quitting cigs and now vaping? Maggie

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        Richard B.Roberts

        January 5, 2018 at 12:00 pm Reply

        Hi, Saw a program that said that ‘menthol flavor juice’ like menthol cigs was the worst tested for the chemicals

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    geoff opulski

    November 19, 2017 at 7:14 pm Reply

    SO even with all of your test and all your other b.s there really is concrete evidence to say vapeing causes popcorn lung. all the facts stae is that certain vape luices may/ may not cause this popcorn lung. I’LL keep on vaping until there is concrete evidence to say other wise.

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      March 2, 2018 at 1:01 am Reply

      Ummm I wouldn’t … probably if you vape for a long period of time the diacytle will catch up to u I wouldn’t take that risk. The popcorn factory workers were exposed to it multiple, multiple times just like you are exposed to the diacytle multiple times when u vape. I think it’s great if you are looking to stop smoking but find a different recreation if you are just vaping for fun. I mean vaping is new and remember when smoking was new. They said it wouldn’t hurt you one bit! This generation will be the lab rats for vaping.

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        March 2, 2018 at 1:03 am Reply


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    December 6, 2017 at 4:01 am Reply

    I’m an idiot I smoke Vape it will lead to COPD, that’s a fact. Smoking vape or cigarettes is idiotic. And I’m one of the idiots but can’t stop

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    December 16, 2017 at 9:05 pm Reply

    I vape without nicotine Will I get popcorn lung to or not ? I only vape the flavors 0 nicotene

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      December 31, 2017 at 9:38 pm Reply

      yes, due to the fact of the flavoring they use

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      January 7, 2018 at 9:46 pm Reply

      Nicotine really can’t cause popcorn lung in the first place it’s the chemicles in some artificial flavours

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    January 1, 2018 at 3:18 pm Reply

    So, vaping without diacetyl in the juice and no nicotine make it safe?

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    February 21, 2018 at 5:50 pm Reply

    Great article, very balanced arguments, thanks for some good advice

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    February 25, 2018 at 12:36 pm Reply

    There is no guarantee that any vaping is safe, the studies that have been done are vague and covered in mysteries. Government testing cannot fully be trusted and testing from reliable sources is at a minimum. All Vaper’s are pretty much the test subjects for the long term effects of Vaping. I try to stay away from Diacetyl, ive generally found that fruit and candy flavors dont have any, its more of the Dairy based, Baked Goods and stuff like that. Flavoring almost guaranteed to have Diacetyl is Butter, Butterscotch, Caramel, Marshmallow and flavors like that. A line of flavoring is out called DX made by TFA and they are all Diacetyl free. Other then that going to a shop that knows there stuff helps but you always gotta remember. Anything foreign to the body is bad, all vaping is, is a less harmful substitute for cigarettes that can be used to help quit smoking. Ive succeeded using vaping and quit cigarettes for 4 months and vaping for 3 months but i ended up smoking again and now im vaping again. All in all im just a guy with my own opinion and no one has to believe anything i say.

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    Christina L Jenkins

    March 2, 2018 at 9:22 am Reply

    It states in the article that these flavorings will not cause popcorn lung.

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    March 24, 2018 at 4:53 am Reply

    I’m new to vaping and freaking out abit because of the popcorn lung research, I only vape occasionally with friends, and I’m still scared to continue. Any advice?

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    May 8, 2018 at 7:48 am Reply

    It’s not at all the Diacetyl, its the Vape. Its the combination of heat and the pressure you have to use to pull on the vape that causes the popcorn lung. I did extensive research in a Biochem study at UCR that lasted over a period of six months All data pointed to the act and delivery method of a vape as the root cause of popcorn lung, and not the components of the chemicals you are putting into your body. Vaping is equally as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.

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      May 28, 2018 at 10:08 pm Reply

      How does that exolain the factory workers then?

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        Clare rainbird

        June 10, 2018 at 1:48 pm Reply


    • comment-avatar

      Clare rainbird

      June 10, 2018 at 1:50 pm Reply


  13. comment-avatar

    Clare rainbird

    June 10, 2018 at 1:49 pm Reply


  14. comment-avatar

    Clare rainbird

    June 10, 2018 at 1:53 pm Reply

    Vaping is safer than smoking , end of

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