When we type popcorn lung in all caps and bold the terms, it looks even worse, but you might be wondering if it’s a legitimate problem or just a bunch of fearmongering hype. It’s not an either/or situation, as with most things in life; a natural ailment like lung cancer can have incredibly serious repercussions, such as lung transplants, which could be a problem for vapers.
Is it possible that this is the case?
I know, it’s not very conclusive, but that’s the answer, as in yes, it’s scientifically possible. Vaping with popcorn lung, on the other hand, has yet to be documented. It can also be difficult to report cases since it is difficult to distinguish from other, considerably more common lung illnesses.
What exactly is popcorn lung and how does it effect your health?
It is a syndrome in which the little air sacs in the lungs that fill with air and oxygenate the blood are damaged. Shortness of breath, blue-tinged fingers, wheezing, crackling, and fatigue are all symptoms of popping popcorn. It sounds a lot like our recent episode of severe flu, except without the fever, and the symptoms don’t go away. Although the condition is officially known as Bronchiolitis Obliterans, the disease’s early instances were related to popcorn producers, garnering it the far more popular and memorable appellation of Popcorn Lung.
I know we bolded the phrases yet again, but it’s like the slimy green beast from the swamp depths, and it seems to deserve the terrifying treatment, and it’s a terrible disease. Bronchiolitis Obliterans can no longer be reversed; it can only be managed, and a lung transplant is one of the better treatment options.
Lung Biopsy on Popcorn
Because chest x-rays are insufficient to diagnose popcorn lung, a biopsy of the lung tissues is required. I’m sure we’re all looking forward to the day when computers can examine us in real time. Still, because our technology hasn’t quite caught up to Star Trek, there could be a lot of Bronchiolitis Obliterans cases that go unnoticed. One benefit of a misdiagnosis is that the treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) appears to work for Bronchiolitis Obliterans. As a result, even if a patient has Bronchiolitis Obliterans but has been diagnosed with COPD, they will respond to treatment and have the best possible medical outcome.
Currently, a doctor would only suspect popcorn lung in someone who worked in a plant that employed either diacetyl or acetyl propionyl to create flavourings. Bronchiolitis Obliterans is also a relatively recent disorder in terms of diagnosis and therapy, which contributes to its limited visibility. Because many professionals are unaware of it, they are unable to provide medical guidance. Eight cases were uncovered in a popcorn factory in Missouri in 2002 as part of an occupational safety investigation.
Bronchiolitis Obliterans is a low-profile disorder, and because the only way to diagnose it is through expensive biopsy procedures or autopsy, we’ll likely never know whether it’s a more prevalent problem or a rare illness left to the musings of researchers in the form of theory.
What is Diacetyl, exactly?
Diacetyl is the flavouring agent responsible for the buttery taste of popcorn. I say ‘used to be’ because popcorn producers no longer use it. If you want a more scientific explanation, Diacetyl or 2,3-butanedione is a, oh, never mind, if you want to know everything about science, go to Wikipedia because it lays it all out for you in a way that we can’t. It’s vital to remember that this benign chemical and its cousins are used to flavour food and are safe to eat but not inhale. We experienced the same sinking feeling as you when we put it together; breathing it is unpleasant, and because this is a post on a vaping website, does this mean this flavour is used in vaping liquids? The short answer is yes, but it does not imply that anyone has developed popcorn lung as a result of using those e-liquids.
Is There a Link Between Vaping and Popcorn Lung?
The best answer we could come up with from all of the publications and scientific papers we looked at was probably not. Let’s break it down because that isn’t very relaxing. To get popcorn lung, you need to inhale a lot of the chemicals that cause it, significantly more than what people are exposed to when they vape. Doctors do not test for Bronchiolitis Obliterans since cigarettes contain many of the same chemicals found in popcorn.
Even in settings where Diacetyl was employed, the CDC ruled out smoking as a cause and confirmed Bronchiolitis Obliterans cases. The level of Diacetyl in cigarettes is 100 times that of vaping liquids. Despite all of the cigarette studies and lawsuits, no link has been found between smoking and the disease. Some smokers may have been misdiagnosed with COPD, which is quite common among long-term smokers. Despite this, there is no evidence of a link between cigarette smoking and popcorn lung. There is unlikely to be a link between popcorn lung and vaping because vaping is safer than smoking and includes less harmful substances.
Another aspect to consider when vaping is that those exposed to high levels of Diacetyl breathed in factories developed symptoms within two years. With more than a decade of vaping under their belts and no increase in mystery lung ailments, it seems logical to believe that vapers are unlikely to develop this lung ailment as a result of diacetyl exposure.
Is it possible to stay healthy by avoiding the dangerous components in my vape juice?
When the vaping industry was small and new, there weren’t many flavouring options, and the bulk of those on the market for producers were designed for food. Because the manufacturers of these flavouring chemicals didn’t expect humans to inhale them, no warnings or cautionary words were ever posted on items containing Diacetyl or one of its cousins. That has changed, and new goods for the vaping industry are being developed on a daily basis, all of which are intended to be properly inhaled.
There are still products on the market that contain the popcorn lung chemical flavourings; however, testing for these chemicals is difficult and expensive, so even if a manufacturer claims its chemicals are free of the bad stuff, a cross-check is prohibitively expensive. Some manufacturers investigate and publicise their findings, but they rarely batch-test e-liquids, putting a once-safe recipe at risk.
Cross-contamination is a worry at companies that produce a variety of flavouring products, as a diacetyl-free product could contain trace levels of the toxin. Despite the manufacturer’s best attempts to keep these chemicals out owing to all the moving parts, industry insiders predict some of these chemicals to find their way into vape juice products.
Is E-Liquid Testing Worth the Money?
We’d be performing a happy dance if it were that simple, but because these compounds are also great at boosting sweet and savoury flavours, we can’t just remove a taste and be done with it. It’s not like Red Color 40, where you can be confident you’re safe if you stay away from any red dye-containing foods. We wish things were that simple, but it isn’t at the moment. The industry hasn’t given up and is still working on making safer vaping goods.
Woot! The problem is being addressed by the industry. I can go back to my normal routine and forget about this, right?
You’re aware that we’re about to say something you don’t want to hear, and you’re curious as to why. There are problems in every industry. Some people believe they may cut corners in the vaping industry since it is safer than smoking. Physicians are now advising smokers to switch to e-cigarettes and vaping as a smoking cessation technique, as well as because it is significantly safer than smoking, thus doctors prefer vaping to smoking if people must have a vice.
As a result, some producers assume they have the green light since “safe” suffices. Because we live in a capitalist society, some businesses will take the easy, profitable route even if a safer alternative exists because it is safe enough. Vaping, on the other hand, has a distinct community that is more grassroots and willing to boycott companies that demonstrate a lack of concern for people.
This consumer involvement in the products that vapers use motivates more companies to aggressively remove components that are known to be harmful and focus on making a product that is “safer than cigarettes.”
So, what should I do now?
By reading this work and being educated, you have already completed the first main goal. The next step is to educate yourself as a consumer and seek products from companies that intentionally avoid ingredients connected to Bronchiolitis Obliterans. Seek out companies that are actively attempting to make all vaping products as safe as possible. Remember, we’re not like the tobacco industry, which denied the presence of cancer-causing chemicals despite several studies demonstrating a harmful link between smoking and lung cancer.
Instead, we’re a company with a vaping community debating these problems as hypothetical possibilities, which is a major difference. Due to the nascent nature of the vaping sector, customers may have a big voice in how consumer safety is handled. We believe that customers will have a positive impact on the industry, and that these products will set the standard for market safety and accountability.