OSHA Proposes Safety Rules to Limit Exposure to Popcorn Butter Flavoring

April 29, 2009

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is moving ahead with new federal safety regulations to limit exposure to a chemical that gives microwave popcorn its butter taste but has been linked to lung disease among workers.

Solis announced that the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will convene a panel May 5 on a draft rule on occupational exposure to diacetyl and food flavorings containing diacetyl. The panel will seek comments from small business advocates before the agency publishes the new rule in the Federal Register.

“I am alarmed that workers exposed to food flavorings containing diacetyl may continue to be at risk of developing a potentially fatal lung disease. Exposure to this harmful chemical already has been linked to the deaths of at least three workers,” said Solis. “These deaths are preventable, and it is imperative that the Labor Department move quickly to address these hazards.”

Solis’ interest in this issue began when she was a member of Congress, and workers in her former California district developed irreversible lung disease after being exposed to this workplace hazard. At one time, she urged OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard to protect these workers.

Once OSHA convenes the SBREFA process, the panel will meet with the SERs to obtain their recommendations. The panel must complete the process and submit its final report within 60 days after being convened.

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