Popcorn Lung and Wet Lung

E-Cigarette Chemicals Linked to Popcorn Lung (Bronchiolitis Obliterans), Wet Lung (Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis), and Other Conditions

What Is Popcorn Lung?

Popcorn Lung, also known as Bronchiolitis Obliterans, is an inflammation of the bronchioles, the lung’s smallest airways.1 It causes scarring that blocks the airways, making it harder to breathe. Symptoms generally develop gradually, and can include dry cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, and fatigue.

What is Popcorn Lung, Bronchiolitis Obliterans Syndrome from Diacetyl
Popcorn Lung or Bronchiolitis Obliterans Syndrome (BOS) [Source: OSHA]

What Is Diacetyl and Is Diacetyl Safe?

Diacetyl, also known by its chemical name, 2-3 butanedione, is commonly used as a flavoring compound in popcorn and other foods to bring out a “buttery” flavor. It used to be a common chemical used in the production of popcorn and has even been used in coffee and cookie dough manufacturing. Employees that were exposed to diacetyl in the workplace were at a much greater risk of death after experiencing symptoms of bronchiolitis obliterans.2

What about diacetyl use in e-cigarette products? E-cigarette manufacturers put diacetyl into e-liquids, which are vaporized and then inhaled. According to a recent study conducted by Harvard University’s School of Public Health, diacetyl was found in 39 out of 51 e-cigarette flavors tested, or more than 75%.3 It’s likely that the vapor you’re using contains diacetyl, and since the e-cigarette industry is not required to comply with FDA standards, the company might not even have to tell you when you’re being exposed to this chemical.

What Is Wet Lung?

Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis (or “wet lung”) is a condition where inflammation of the lungs from a chemical or foreign body results in difficulty breathing, scarring of the lungs, and in this case respiratory failure. Untreated respiratory failure can be fatal. Lung scarring is permanent.

A particularly startling case of Wet Lung arose when a young patient entered the Emergency Room with a prolonged cough, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. She was admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, but her condition took a turn for the worse. She went into respiratory failure and was intubated with a breathing tube. To keep her alive, doctors placed her on 90% oxygen and inserted tubes in her chest cavity to drain out the fluid around her lungs.

The cause of this, according to an article her doctors published in Pediatrics, was likely her new e-cig vaping habit.

Read more here: Doctors Report on Teen with Wet Lung

What Is the Link Between Diacetyl and Popcorn Lung?

Numerous studies have found a strong link between the inhalation of diacetyl and the development of Bronchiolitis Obliterans.

For example, one study found that exposure to diacetyl led to significant damage to the epithelium, the thinnest outer layer of tissue lining the bronchioles. The study also indicated that diacetyl can be the cause of peribronchial lymphocytic inflammation, or fibrohistiocytic lesions in the terminal bronchioles.4 In other words, the exposure of diacetyl to mice was linked to injuries that mimic human Bronchiolitis Obliterans. A further study indicated that diacetyl can reach much deeper into human lungs than into rat lungs, exposing humans to a great risk of injury.5

Are E-Cigarettes or Vapes Safe?

E-cigarette use has become popular only recently, and studies investigating the dangers are ongoing. What we know so far shows vape use is far from safe. One preliminary study conducted with newborn mice found that exposing the mice to e-cigarette smoke resulted in slightly smaller lungs, decreased cell growth, and a lower body weight than mice who had not been exposed.6

Another study found that exposing mice to e-cigarette smoke containing nicotine contributed to symptoms normally exhibited in the development of chronic lung disease.7

Read more about vaping mice and lung damage.

Studies done with human lung cells and the cells of airway passages have also begun to show the negative effects of e-cigarettes. When the cells were incubated with e-cigarette smoke, there was an increase in cell death, an increase in the production of substances that cause harmful inflammation, and weaker defense against bacterial infections, along with what may have been cancerous characteristics.

Vape and vape mods have also exploded. Vape battery explosions have killed, and serious third and second degree burns can result in scarring, nerve damage, and the need for skin grafts.

How Can You Contact a Vape Lung Lawyer?

Levin Simes Abrams is investigating claims of lung damage from vape devices, exploding vape batteries, as well as underage addiction from Juul devices and illegal marketing to children. If you or a loved one has been injured, please contact a vape lawyer about investigating a claim at 415-426-3000 or at [email protected]