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Workers have a right to be protected against occupational disease

While regulators warn consumers about the dangers of diacetyl, an additive used by manufacturers to flavor a variety of foods and drinks, workers in the factories where the flavorings are used are exposed to similar and often more dangerous health hazards. Company owners of facilities in Colorado that manufacture consumables are responsible for protecting their workers from health hazards. Hazardous chemicals are often used as enhancers of the natural scent and flavor of foods and may lead to occupational disease that could potentially be deadly.

Diacetyl or its substitute is commonly used to flavor microwave popcorn, nuts, cookie dough, coffee and other food products. Inhalation may cause obliterative bronchiolitis, a rare irreversible lung disease that may develop within only a few months of exposure. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says rapid development of the disease may cause severe impairment in workers within a relatively short period. Coughing and breath shortness are tell-tale symptoms, but X-rays and breathing tests often fail to indicate the presence of obliterative bronchiolitis. A biopsy may have to be carried out.

Manufacturers are advised to substitute the flavoring with safer products, and if that fails, they should establish surveillance stations where workers are regularly monitored to identify chest symptoms at an early stage. Even workers who show no symptoms of breathing problems should be tested at regular intervals. In addition, it is vital for workers to be provided with adequate protective gear to prevent the inhalation of toxic fumes.

Some employers have been successfully sued by workers for knowingly exposing them to the dangers of flavorings such as diacetyl. Any Colorado worker who contracted an occupational disease after such exposure may pursue benefits from the workers' compensation insurance fund. A worker need not wait until his or her condition becomes severe before pursuing compensation and may benefit from taking action as soon as an occupational disease is diagnosed. The best first step is to seek a case evaluation in order to determine what legal steps may be appropriate.

Source: riskandinsurance.com, "Flavored With Danger", Katie Kuehner-Hebert, March 2, 2015

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