The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has Confirmed that Coffee Workers are at Risk from Two Lung-Destroying Chemicals
In a recent study conducted by researchers from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), hazardous concentrations of diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione in air samples taken at a Madison, Wisconsin based coffee plant have sounded an alarm for coffee processing companies across the nation. Some 600,000 workers who roast, grind, store and package coffee are at risk for developing a life-threatening ailment after exposure to the chemicals.
Diacetyl has been linked to the deadly lung disease commonly known as ‘popcorn lung’ because of its relation to illnesses suffered by microwave popcorn workers in the early 2000’s. It is molecularly similar to 2,3-pentanedione, also hazardous to workers. The two chemicals form when coffee beans are roasted, which are subsequently released into the air when the coffee beans are ground or ‘off-gas’ in storage bins. NIOSH researchers found levels in three breathing-zone samples where coffee is processed that exceeded the safety levels recommended by the CDC, in some cases by nearly four times.
Damage from diacetyl can occur quickly, though symptoms may emerge more gradually. Many workers whose lungs have been destroyed by diacetyl suffered their injuries in a matter of months, not years or decades. Of the 5 workers checked during one study, four had lung tests or symptoms consistent with hazardous exposure to the lung destroying chemicals.
If you are employed in a coffee processing plant or another industry such as cheesemakers, peanut butter plants, wineries, cookie and cracker manufacturers that use diacetyl as a flavor additive, the risk is real. Although employers have a duty to provide a working environment that is “free from recognized hazards that can cause physical harm or death and have an obligation to inform workers about hazardous chemicals they are working with along with protection plans and equipment, some employers are not taking the necessary precautions.
If you or a loved one has been injured at work due to exposure to hazardous agents, contact the Davenport Iowa Law Offices of McDonald, Woodward & Carlson P.C. for help. Our personal injury – workers’ compensation attorneys fight for the rights of injured workers in Iowa and Illinois so they can get the benefits they need.
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “CDC Tests at Coffee Plant Find High Levels of Dangerous Chemical”, by Raquel Rutledge, accessed April 19, 2016; Ames Tribune, “Coffee Roasters’ Health at Risk from Chemical Compound”, by Raquel Rutledge, accessed April 19, 2016.