The term “popcorn lung” is one that has made its way into our daily lexicon over the last decade or so and is the nickname for bronchiolitis obliterans—a condition that can cause significant damage to an individual’s lungs. The medical condition got its nickname from the fact that people who have more exposure to diacetyl—a chemical used in popcorn flavoring—can be more likely to have popcorn lung.

While there are other causes of popcorn lung, the notoriety of lawsuits awarding millions of dollars in damages to clients who worked in factories that produced popcorn or who ate large quantities of microwave popcorn regularly, have caused the name popcorn lung to stick.

However, consumers should be aware of all the causes of popcorn lung, how it is diagnosed, and what treatments are available.

Causes of Popcorn Lung

As noted above, the most well-known cause of bronchiolitis obliterans, or, popcorn lung, is prolonged and repeated exposure to diacetyl. But there are other common causes worth knowing about.

The first is exposure to acetaldehyde, a chemical found in marijuana and some electronic cigarettes. While acetaldehyde can cause popcorn lung resulting in dry coughing and shortness of breath, it can also do significant damage to other parts of the body as well including the stomach, mouth, and throat.

In addition to diacetyl and acetaldehyde, other causes of popcorn lung include a list of chemicals such as:

  • Ammonia
  • Chlorine
  • And chemicals used in some adhesives like formaldehyde

Finally, there are other causes of popcorn lung that have nothing to do with man-made chemicals. In some cases, bronchiolitis obliterans can be the result of other major illnesses like bronchitis and pneumonia. It is also common in patients who get lung transplants.

Diagnosis

There are several things doctors might do to diagnose bronchiolitis obliterans, some procedures being more invasive than others. One thing medical professionals can do is order a CT scan of your lungs to determine if you have popcorn lung.

Another possibility is a chest X-ray. Finally, and perhaps the best way to determine if a person has bronchiolitis obliterans is via biopsy. 

As with many diseases, early detection can make a huge difference. If you or a loved one suspect you suffer from popcorn lung it is advised that you seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Treatment

The first and best form of treatment is actually prevention. Rather than dealing with the long-lasting and life-changing consequences of bronchiolitis obliterans, you can take steps to avoid it altogether. 

First, it has been advised that individuals limit exposure to chemicals that are known to cause popcorn lung. If you do have to interact with such chemicals, it is probably best to wear protective gear.

If you do have the disease, doctors may prescribe various drugs to reduce inflammation. Antibiotics and steroids are also often part of a treatment plan for popcorn lung.

It is also common for doctors to prescribe medication that helps with the symptoms of bronchiolitis obliterans—coughing and shortness of breath. 

Of course, any treatment advice you read online should be verified with a licensed medical professional. 

What To Do if You Have Popcorn Lung

As with any injury or illness, the first thing you should do if you have or think you have popcorn lung is seek medical attention. Your doctor will be able to diagnose you and prescribe the treatment plan that is just right for you.

After you have consulted with your doctor and have received treatment, you may also want to contact a qualified personal injury lawyer. If your case of popcorn lung is the result of negligence on the part of your employer or another party, you may be entitled to collect damages to cover things like medical bills and loss of income.

In some cases, you may also be entitled to collect what are known as non-economic damages. These types of damages refer to more intangible things like pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.

A good product liability lawyer will know the questions they need to ask to determine the validity of your case. They will also have the legal expertise to navigate your case from the initial investigation, through filing a lawsuit on your behalf, to discovery, and finally on to settlement or trial. 

Something as valuable as your health and well being should not be taken for granted by anyone and you have a right to compensation in the case another party is at fault for your condition. If you have popcorn lung, now is the perfect time to determine the best course of legal action.