Coffee Workers and Lung Disease Concerns due to Diacetyl Exposure
The American Board of Industrial Hygiene® (ABIH®) reminds workers and industry of the need to address exposure to diacetyl and other substances associated with flavorings-related lung disease.
CIHs are uniquely qualified to help prevent worker exposure to these and other respirable hazards due to their extensive training and experience in air sampling, engineering controls, work environments, industrial processes, risk analysis, personal protective equipment and other core competencies of the CIH® program.
In April, National Public Radio published a report about coffee workers involved with roasting activities and exposure concerns from a chemical known as diacetyl. Diacetyl is a natural by-product of the coffee bean roasting process and is also a man-made chemical that is added to some flavored coffees, microwave popcorn and other food products.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) also published Coffee Workers at Risk for Lung Disease, in a science blog early this year. It discusses diacetyl and a diacetyl substitute (2,3-pentanedione) which are both volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are produced naturally and commercially. The article discusses five workers from a coffee processing facility who were all diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, a form of lung disease.
Worker exposures to diacetyl and food flavorings containing diacetyl (FFCD) have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reports that a number of employees exposed to FFCD have developed serious respiratory illness presenting with persistent dry cough, wheezing, shortness of breath upon exertion and fixed airways obstruction on spirometry. Some employees have been diagnosed with asthma or bronchiolitis obliterans. Bronchiolitis obliterans occurs when small airways become inflamed and scarred, resulting in the thickening and narrowing of the airways. The symptoms and airways obstruction range from mild to severe and do not improve when the employee goes home or on vacation. Because bronchiolitis obliterans is a rare disease, some employees may have been misdiagnosed with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or pneumonia. The loss of pulmonary function associated with severe bronchiolitis obliterans is permanent and some patients have been placed on lung transplant waiting lists.
“While more research is underway, workers should minimize their exposure to diacetyl and food flavorings containing diacetyl or 2,3-pentanedione,” said Susan Ripple, CIH® and Chair of ABIH®. “Certified Industrial Hygienists are available to identify exposure risks in the coffee roasting and food manufacturing industries. CIHs are uniquely qualified to help prevent worker exposure to these and other respirable hazards due to their extensive training and experience in air sampling, engineering controls, work environments, industrial processes, risk analysis, personal protective equipment and other core competencies of the CIH® program.”
To learn more about the American Board of Industrial Hygiene®, Certified Industrial Hygienist® credential or to locate a CIH® to perform industrial hygiene services, please visit www.ABIH.org, email abih@ABIH.org or call (517) 321-2638.
About the American Board of Industrial Hygiene ®
Since 1960, ABIH®, a not-for-profit corporation, has been the world’s largest organization for certifying professionals in the practice of industrial hygiene. ABIH® is the premier credentialing body responsible for ensuring high-quality certification including education, experience, examination, certification maintenance and ethics enforcement. Currently, more than 6800 people in 32 countries are certified to use the CIH® designation.
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