Gradient Presenting at Northwest Occupational Health Conference

News & Events

August 8, 2017

Gradient will present at Northwest Occupational Health Conference on October 25-27, 2017 in Spokane, WA.

“Emerging Evidence Addressing Occupational Health Risks of Diacetyl in Coffee Production Facilities”
David G. Dodge, M.S., DABT, CIH
Thursday, October 26, 2017
Industrial Hygiene Session 2,

In 2000, a rare lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans was identified in workers at a microwave popcorn factory. It was subsequently observed at other microwave popcorn plants and at flavor manufacturing plants. Exposure to diacetyl (or butter flavoring containing this chemical) has been implicated with substantial evidence as a cause (although not definitively the sole cause) of these reported disease cases.  Human and animal studies indicate that the respiratory tract (nose, throat, and lungs) is the critical target for inhaled diacetyl.  Although data are more limited, similar effects have been reported for the related chemical 2,3-pentanedione. Several occupational exposure limits (OELs) exist for diacetyl, the most stringent of which is a value of 5 ppb put forth by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 2016.  Recently, concerns for occupational risks of diacetyl to workers outside the microwave popcorn and flavoring industries have surfaced, including in coffee production plants. Diacetyl is naturally produced and released during the coffee roasting process (with release intensified during grinding) and may be used in artificial flavoring of coffee.  NIOSH, which has conducted many of the occupational studies where diacetyl exposures may occur, recently conducted studies at a coffee processing plant in Texas where five former workers had been diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans. All five former workers had worked in the flavoring room where diacetyl concentrations might be expected to be relatively high.  Cases of work-related bronchiolitis obliterans had not been previously identified in the coffee-processing industry.  NIOSH is reportedly conducting health hazard evaluations in 16 other coffee processing facilities.  This presentation will provide an overview and update of this emerging area of occupational health interest.