Word of Mouth

One last kernel of the Colorado "Popcorn lung" case

It could be the asbestos of our generation: "Popcorn Lung" now has a website dedicated to victims of this dreaded "disease" (in truth, it's a law firm's site encouraging potential litigation) -- and the phenomenon began in our own back yard.

Although the medical condition known as bronchiolitis obliterans was first identified among factory workers who made the popcorn, Centennial's Wayne Watson was the first consumer to complain. He filed suit against a microwave popcorn manufacturer two years ago, , claiming that he'd suffered some pretty gnarly health problems after huffing the fumes of the two bags of butter-flavor-laden popcorn he consumed a day.

The culprit? A nasty little chemical called diacetyl.

Back in 2006, the FDA had deemed the chemical safe as a flavoring in small amounts -- 5mg a day (the FDA did not translate that into bags of popcorn. But even so, popcorn manufacturers are now voluntarily removing the chemical from the process. And according to documents filed this week, Wayne has settled his case with the company responsible for distributing the store-brand version of the sinister late-night snack.

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Saul Hudson