What Is Popcorn Lung and How Is It Linked To Vaping?

The use of JUUL and other e-cigarettes has been linked to many serious injuries, including heart attacks, strokes, seizures, and nicotine addiction. However, much of the focus of the medical professionals working to combat the e-cigarette epidemic has been on another serious injury – the incurable lung condition known as bronchiolitis obliterans.

What is Bronchiolitis Obliterans?

With every breath we take, air flows into our mouth or nose and then down into our windpipe. The windpipe then divides into two bronchi, which then divide into smaller and smaller tubes withair sacs to transport oxygen throughout the body. It is inside the tiny tubes within our lungs – called bronchioles – that the dangers of the incurable respiratory disease bronchiolitis obliterans, also known as “popcorn lung,” first become visible.

Popcorn lung occurs when an outside agent causes irritation, scarring, and inflammation of the bronchiole tubes. As a result, the airways become thick with scar tissue and the pathway for air becomes increasingly narrower. Breathing becomes more difficult, and one often begins to feel shortness of breath due to a lack of oxygen and inability to breathe properly. Although there are treatments to limit and manage symptoms of popcorn lung, there is not a known cure and the disease is life-threatening.

What Causes Bronchiolitis Obliterans?

The flavoring chemical diacetyl has been linked to causing bronchiolitis obliterans. The disease became known as “popcorn lung” after the cases that first linked diacetyl to bronchiolitis obliterans. Until 2007, diacetyl was a flavoring chemical used for butter flavoring in microwave popcorn. However, research emerged that factory workers in microwave popcorn plants who inhaled diacetyl were increasingly being diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans. As a result of the findings, diacetyl flavoring was removed from microwave popcorn.

How Does Diacetyl Inhalation Occur Today?

Diacetyl is still used today to flavor certain e-cigarette products. According to the American Lung Association, diacetyl is added to the “e-juice” liquid ingredients used to create flavorings such as vanilla, maple, coconut, and many more. The aerosol is then inhaled by the user, and diacetyl begins to damage the lungs.

In 2015 the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health conducted a study to investigate the presence of diacetyl in flavored e-cigarette products. Diacetyl was found in 39 out of the 51 flavored e-cigarette products and refill liquids that were tested by researchers. While JUUL claims that it does not use diacetyl in its e-juice, a 2019 Yale study found additional chemicals not included in JUUL’s ingredients are created when the e-juice liquid is vaporized.

How Do I Know if My Loved One has been Harmed by E-Cigarette Use?

Symptoms of Bronchiolitis Obliterans include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Trouble doing routine tasks such as washing one’s hair or tying shoes
  • Difficulty breathing

What Should I Do if My Loved One has been Harmed by E-Cigarette Use? 

If you or a loved one has been harmed after the use of a JUUL e-cigarette, contact the attorneys at GoldenbergLaw. With over 30 years of experience fighting corporate negligence, we deliver the Gold standard advocacy you deserve.


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