A Colorado man's two-bag-a-day popcorn habit may be the cause of his mysterious respiratory illness, says a top lung specialist in Denver. Previously seen only in factory workers, the disease known as "popcorn lung" appears to arise from overexposure to a common flavoring chemical called diacetyl, the New York Times reported today.
Dr. Cecile Rose found symptoms of the disease (swollen airways, difficulty exhaling) in a man who later told her he had not only nuked popcorn twice daily for a decade, but also savored the diacetyl-laden fumes. Symptoms improved when he kicked the habit. Rose alerted regulators over a month ago with a letter that became public yesterday.