Man With 'Microwave Popcorn Lung' Awarded $7M

Fake butter fumes sickened man who ate 2 bags a day

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 20, 2012 2:03 AM CDT

(Newser) – A jury has awarded $7 million to a Colorado man who contracted a chronic lung condition from a different kind of two-pack-a-day habit. Wayne Watson sued a supermarket chain and a popcorn maker after becoming ill with "microwave popcorn lung," CBS 4 reports. A lung specialist testified that Watson's condition was the result of microwaving two bags of popcorn a day for a decade and inhaling the chemical dicetyl, used in artificial butter.

The condition caused by the additive, which is no longer in use, had only previously been seen in popcorn factory workers. "Who would ever reasonably think that popping popcorn in your own home, no matter how it’s packaged or processed, would all of a sudden turn into an agent for toxic lung disease," said Watson, whose lawyers argued that there should have been a warning label. Lawyers for the defendants disagreed, saying they "might have well have warned that there are aliens popping out of the bags because there's just as much support for that."

Wayne Watson demonstrates how he used to smell the steam after opening a bag of popcorn.
Wayne Watson demonstrates how he used to smell the steam after opening a bag of popcorn.   (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
Watson no longer nukes his popcorn.
Watson no longer nukes his popcorn.   (?Robert Banh)
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I haven't eaten a bag of popcorn since 2007. I hardly eat popcorn any more. Occasionally we'll pop some on the stove the old fashioned way. - Wayne Watson

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