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Man Awarded $7 Million in "Popcorn Lung" Case

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In an unprecedented victory, a Colorado man was awarded a $7.2 million verdict for injuries he sustained to his lungs from consuming microwave popcorn. Wayne Watson says that he inhaled the aroma of microwave popcorn for ten years at least twice per day, which led to a diagnosis of "popcorn lung". While it has a weird name, "popcorn lung" is a serious respiratory condition characterized by scarring in the lungs and breathing problems.

It isn't very common for someone to acquire popcorn lung by inhaling the aroma of microwave popcorn, if you eat multiple bags per day like Watson did, you may want to switch to an air popper machine. Watson sued Illinois popcorn manufacturer Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation for negligence because the company failed to warn consumers that the chemical butter flavoring, diacetyl, is dangerous. In fact, health problems began to arise in popcorn workers about 15 years ago. Diacetyl is also linked to Alzheimer's, but most popcorn manufacturers stopped the use of the chemical in their products in 2007.

Factory workers are typically more likely to develop popcorn lung because of their continual exposure to diacetyl. As Watson states, popcorn manufacturers probably assumed that no consumer would be harmed by the chemical because they wouldn't be exposed to enough of it to make a difference. Defense attorneys for the popcorn company argued that Watson's health problems stemmed from his exposure to carpet cleaning chemicals for years, but Watson's lung problems are almost identical to those found in popcorn factory workers exposed to diacetyl.