Flavored e-cigarettes have been found in a new Harvard study to contain a chemical associated with “popcorn lung” — a respiratory disease. Many e-cigarette brands, widely perceived by consumers to be a healthy alternative to ordinary cigarettes, use the chemical called diacetyl to add flavors that make the e-cigarettes so popular. Flavors like strawberry and butterscotch, for instance. The research revealed that about 75% of the 51 e-cig brands studied used the chemical.
What is popcorn lung? Why such a cute nickname for a deadly disease? Popcorn lung is another term for obliterative bronchiolitis, according to the CDC. It’s a “serious lung disease that is irreversible.” It gets its nickname because before its use in e-cigarettes, diacetyl was most often associated with flavorings for microwave popcorn, especially the artificial butter flavoring. In 2004, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that workers in the microwave popcorn and chemical flavoring industries may have a higher risk factor for obliterative bronchiolities — or what became known as “popcorn lung.”