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In the first few years of this century, the deaths of several workers in a microwave popcorn factory were linked to Diacetyl. In 2011 and 2012, five workers in a coffee roasting facility contracted an illness called bronchiolitis obliterans; it's caused by Diacetyl. This illness is irreversible and can be fatal. Following up, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested 69 additional workers at the same facility and found 11 more workers who had apparently contracted the same disease.

Workers in the coffee industry nationwide, including in Colorado, who are involved in the roasting, grinding and flavoring of coffee beans are at risk. Diacetyl is naturally formed when coffee beans are roasted, and higher concentrations are released when the beans are ground. It is a byproduct of fermentation, and while ingestion in trace amounts is deemed safe, inhalation has been determined to be toxic.

Research has determined that Diacetyl causes scar tissue to build up in the tiniest airways in the lungs, blocking airflow. In September, the CDC warned employers and workers in the coffee processing industry about the potential dangers of the compound. Diacetyl is also present in other foods and drinks and has also been found in the liquid used in e-cigarettes.

Workers in Colorado have the right to safe workplace environments and may insist on protective respiratory equipment to protect them against illnesses like bronchiolitis obliterans. Any worker who has contracted an illness that is work related may pursue a claim for financial compensation through the workers' comp. system. However, because it is never easy to prove that such a condition is related to work as well as the onset date of the illness, it is typically helpful to utilize the services of an experienced workers' compensation attorney. With professional guidance, a victim may receive financial relief to cover current and future medical expenses, along with lost wages.

Source: jsonline.com, "CDC finds mounting evidence of risk to coffee workers", Raquel Rutledge, Nov. 3, 2015

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