Forty-two scientists and two unions are asking OSHA to do something about popcorn workers lung, a serious, sometimes fatal respiratory disease called bronchiolitis obliterans associated with breathing diacetyl or diacetyl-associated fumes while working with flavorings like artificial butter in microwave popcorn manufacture (see our previous post here). The petitioners want OSHA to promulgate an Emergency Temporary Standard to cut extremely high exposures to diacetyl in manufacturing and product use workplaces. Over a million workers are estimated to be exposed to the compound.
OSHA has no regulations for diacetyl although they have issued guidelines. Industrial hygienists have said control measures would not be difficult. The flavor manufacturers trade association is keeping a low profile, saying they’d support “any appropriate action that is based on sound science, including the establishment of a (permissible exposure limit) that will protect workers.” (Reuters) Do dead bodies count as sound science?
Meanwhile OSHA has ignored the evidence and done nothing, according to epidemiologist David Michaels of George Washington University School of Public Health.
Ruth McCully, who heads OSHA’s Directorate for Science, Technology and Medicine, said the agency has yet to evaluate the unions’ request for an “emergency temporary standard.” She said evaluations of such requests can take up to two years.
Gives new meaning to the word “emergency,” Michaels observed to us in an email after seeing our previous post on popcorn workers lung. I guess this is the post-Karina meaning.