2 Fixed Obstructive Lung Disease Among Workers at Microwave Popcorn Factory

2 Fixed Obstructive Lung Disease Among Workers at Microwave Popcorn Factory

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Weekly April 26, 2002 / 51(16);345-7 Fixed Obstructive Lung Disease in Workers at a Microwave Popcorn Factory --- Missouri, 2000--2002 In May 2000, an occupational medicine physician contacted the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MoDHSS) to report eight cases of fixed obstructive lung disease in former workers of a microwave popcorn factory. Four of the patients were on lung transplant lists. All eight had a respiratory illness resembling bronchiolitis obliterans with symptoms of cough and dyspnea on exertion, had worked at the same popcorn factory (factory A) at some time during 1992--2000 , and had spirometric test results that were lower than normal for both FEV 1 (forced expiratory volume in 1 second) and FEV 1 /FVC (forced vital capacity) ratio. Employment durations ranged from 8 months to 9 years. MoDHSS requested assistance from CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in evaluating factory A for respiratory hazards to workers. This report summarizes the epidemiologic findings motivating the technical assistance request and preliminary results. The findings of this investigation indicate that workers exposed to flavorings at microwave popcorn factories are at risk for developing fixed obstructive lung disease. Public health authorities, employers, and health-care providers are collaborating to prevent obstructive lung disease in popcorn factory workers. At factory A, soybean oil, salt, and flavorings are mixed into a large heated tank in a process that produces visible dust, aerosols, and vapors with a strong buttery odor. To determine whether exposure to inhaled mixing-tank substances was associated with disease, MoDHSS analyzed patients according to job categories determined by work proximity to the mixing tank: workers who were mixers of oil, salt, and flavorings and who had direct contact with the tank; microwave-packaging workers who worked 5--30 meters from the tank; and workers in other areas of the factory who were >30 meters from the tank. During 1992--2000 , factory A employed approximately 560 workers; 425 no longer worked at the factory as of May 2000. Of the eight patients reported, four were mixers and four were microwave-packaging workers. No microwave-packaging workers had ever worked as mixers. Discussions with workers and management staff at factory A indicated that an estimated 13 (3%) of the 425 former workers had been mixers, 276 (65%) had worked in microwave packaging, and 136 (32%) had worked in other areas of the factory. On the basis of this estimated distribution, the crude incidence
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This note was uploaded on 05/02/2008 for the course ENVL 111 taught by Professor Unknown during the Fall '07 term at University of Washington.

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2 Fixed Obstructive Lung Disease Among Workers at Microwave Popcorn Factory

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