What is Popcorn Lung?

What is Popcorn Lung?

It has been no secret that one of vaping’s biggest scandals is the outbreak of ‘popcorn lung’. This damaging lung condition has been directly linked to vaping, but there is one chemical in particular that is now widely understood to be the cause - Diacetyl.

The good news for vapers here in the UK, is that this flavoursome but ultimately harmful ingredient has been banned in e-liquids for a number of years thanks to our strict TPD regulations. Read on as we explore what Diacetyl is, it’s past use in vaping, and how it has caused a number of people to experience ‘popcorn lung’.

What is Diacetyl?

Diacetyl is an ingredient used in foods to add a buttery, sweet and smooth flavour to various treats. It is an organic compound often found in sweet, rich foods like dairy, alcohol and…popcorn – we’ll come back to the last one…

It is actually naturally occurring in coffee, honey and some fruits, but is also artificially manufactured as an additive to many processed foods that would otherwise taste bland like margarine or crackers. Most food manufacturers are not legally obliged to tell you it’s in their product, it typically is counted within the blankets: ‘natural flavourings’ or ‘artificial flavourings’.

It doesn’t sound too bad initially, after all, most of us enjoy rich sweet foods regularly and are aware things are added to processed examples to make them taste better. The danger however presents itself when the human body is exposed to high amounts of the compound, particularly when it is inhaled.

Diacetyl and Popcorn Lung

The first time these two were mentioned together, was not actually anything to do with vaping. In 2004, long before vaping became popular, 30 workers filed lawsuits against butter-flavour manufacturer International Flavors and Fragrances Inc. and its subsidiary Bush Boake Allen Inc. They claimed the companies knew their products were hazardous and failed to provide warnings or safety precautions.

The products in question were, you guessed it, popcorn. The workers were exposed to high levels of diacetyl used in the popcorn’s production, causing them to inhale it on a regular basis, with no warning of the dangers from employers. These workers were all developing Bronchitis Obliterans, the scientific name for what became known as popcorn lung.

What is Popcorn Lung?

It is a condition that damages your lungs' smallest airways and makes you cough and feel short of breath. While not the only potential cause, inhaling Diacetyl has been confirmed as a catalyst. When you have "popcorn lung," those tiny air passages get irritated and inflamed. That leads to scarring that makes them narrower. That makes it harder for you to get enough air.

Vaping, Diacetyl, and Popcorn Lung

Vaping found itself implicated in the fears surrounding Bronchitis Obliterans when, in 2015, Harvard researchers found that 75% of e-liquids they tested contained Diacetyl at dangerous levels. Due to the lack of regulation at the time, the USA had no ban on such ingredients which exposed vapers to the risks of developing popcorn lung.

Thankfully the ingredient was banned in the UK the following year (2016), having only been permitted for around a year before manufacturers like LiQuid removed it from any recipes. Despite this, headlines from the US sparked fears that the same risks were faced by UK consumers, however this is not the case for anyone using exclusively UK manufactured vaping products like our 10ml range.

Rest assured that every drop of e-liquid from our nic salt to our shortfills are held to exacting quality standards and are fully compliant and above-board. It’s good to understand the history and dangers, but if it’s made in the UK, you can vape with peace of mind.

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