andrew schneider investigates

June 5, 2008

Popcorn butter-flavoring and Parkinson’?

Filed under: Diacetyl,Random observations — Andrew Schneider @ 16:00

It has been repeatedly documented that inhalation of vapors from diacetyl butter flavoring has destroy lungs of scores of workers at popcorn plants and in other industries involving flavoring agents. But, Dr. David Egilman, a specialist in occupational and internal medicine who has diagnosed many of these workers, is concerned about two cases of Parkinson’s disease that he recently encountered in employees from one of the largest flavoring companies in the country.

The two men, both in their mid-50s, were flavorists for Givaudan in Cincinnati, OH, and worked with diacetyl and numerous other chemicals, Egilman told me in a telephone interview earlier this week. In the past, Givaudan refused to discuss health problems of specific workers.

“I’m not saying there is a proven link between diacetyl and Parkinson’s, but there are only 15 flavorists at the company and to find a relatively rare disease like this in two of them raises a concern,” said the Massachusetts-based physician who is a clinical professor of medicine at Brown University.

Egilman, who has served as an expert witness for many workers reportedly injured by exposure to diacetyl, says the Food and Drug Administration and the companies manufacturing, using and selling flavoring agents must be held accountable for exposing workers, and in some cases, the public, to toxic food additives that remain untested for adverse effects.

The public health worker’s blog “Pump Handle,” said today wrote that “workers are typically the canaries for the rest of us” and urged the occupational medicine and public health community to notify Egilman of similar cases of Parkinson’s in flavoring-exposed workers.

“Parkinson’s may not be a problem but we owe it to the workers and their families to at least check it out,” Egilman told me.


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