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What Is Popcorn Lung And What Do E-Cigarettes Have To Do With it?

Many people in Chicago have turned to e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking. E-cigarettes deliver nicotine to the user, along with selected flavors, through vapor. While e-cigarettes are marketed as a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes, we are beginning to learn about health risks linked to the product.

Although e-cigarettes don't produce tobacco smoke, they do produce a number of harmful chemicals including not only nicotine but also formaldehyde and acetaldehyde (known carcinogens) and potentially toxic metal particles. Some of the vapor flavors also contain diacetyl, which has been linked to the severe disease known as "popcorn lung."

Are E-Cigarettes Safe?

Diacetyl is a chemical that is typically used to add flavorings to food products, including butter to microwave popcorn. Workers who process microwave popcorn are believed to be at risk of developing a serious lung injury called bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (popcorn lung) from the inhalation of diacetyl.

Harvard researchers have found that inhaling the chemical through an e-cigarette is similar to the exposure microwave popcorn factory workers endure. According to the researchers, 39 of the 51 flavors of e-cigarettes sold by leading brands are flavored with diacetyl. 

The chemical was even found in e-cigarettes made by two companies who said their products didn't contain it.

You might be wondering why these products are even on the market. Part of the answer is that e-cigarettes are generally unregulated. Of the 39 flavors of e-cigarettes that researchers found to contain diacetyl, not one related package or website includes any health warnings about the chemical.

This does not mean, however, that these companies shouldn't be held responsible if consumers develop diseases from their products. Manufacturers of consumer products are held to certain legal standards to ensure their products are safe for use.

There is no cure for popcorn lung. If you have symptoms, such as cough, shortness of breath, weight loss, or nausea, see your physician and tell him or her about your e-cigarette use.

An experienced product liability attorney can help you understand your legal options.

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