The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced that it is initiating a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to address the hazards and control measures associated with working in the microwave popcorn industry where butter flavorings containing diacetyl are used. The NEP applies to all workplaces where butter flavored microwave popcorn is being manufactured.
In January 2006, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released an investigative report on a microwave popcorn production facility. Several employees from this facility were diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans—a severe obstructive lung disease. Following a number of lung function tests and air sampling, NIOSH determined that inhalation exposure to butter flavoring chemicals is a risk for occupational lung disease. OSHA's National Emphasis Program will provide direction on inspection targeting and procedures, methods of controlling the hazard and compliance assistance. The 24 states and two US territories that operate their own OSHA programs are encourage, but not required, to adopt a similar emphasis program.
"We recognize that there are potential occupational health hazards associated with butter flavorings containing diacetyl," said assistant secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Edwin Foulke Jr. "Under this program, OSHA will target inspection resources to those workplaces where we anticipate the highest employee exposures to these hazards."