Popcorn is a beloved and popular snack that people enjoy while watching a movie or hanging out with friends. However, did you know that the fumes released from making microwave popcorn can cause severe respiratory problems? This condition is known as Popcorn Lung, and it can cause severe damage to your lungs. In this article, we will discuss some of the signs that may indicate you have lung disease from popcorn and what you can do to prevent it.

Popcorn Lung: An Overview

Popcorn Lung, also known as bronchiolitis obliterans, is a rare but life-threatening lung disease. The disease got its name after several microwave popcorn factory workers developed the condition back in the early 2000s. Popcorn Lung occurs when people inhale the chemical diacetyl, which is used to produce the butter flavoring in microwave popcorn. Diacetyl has a popcorn-like aroma, which is why it is used in popcorn flavorings. However, inhaling this chemical can cause severe and irreversible respiratory problems such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and even lung scarring.

Signs of Popcorn Lung

Here are some of the signs that you may have lung disease from popcorn:

Chronic Cough: A persistent cough that does not go away, even after taking cough medicine, could be a sign of popcorn lung. This cough may be accompanied by wheezing or shortness of breath.

Chronic Cough

Difficulty Breathing: If you experience difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, it could be a sign of popcorn lung. This symptom may worsen with physical activities like exercising or climbing stairs.

Difficulty Breathing

Chest Pain: Chest pain that occurs when breathing, coughing, or sneezing may be a sign of lung disease.

Chest Pain

Fatigue: Feeling tired or exhausted all the time could be a sign that your lungs are not functioning properly.


Fever: A low-grade fever, usually less than 101˚F, could be a sign that your body is fighting off an infection caused by popcorn lung.

Fever:Popcorn Lung Symptoms


The best way to prevent popcorn lung is to avoid inhaling diacetyl. If you love popcorn, you can switch to air-popped or stovetop popcorn instead of consuming microwave popcorn. You can also check the ingredient list and avoid buying popcorn products that contain diacetyl. Workers in popcorn plants and factories should ensure that they are provided with appropriate protective gear, such as masks, to prevent inhalation of diacetyl.


Popcorn Lung is a rare condition, and its prevalence is not well known. According to a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, bronchiolitis obliterans occurred in eight cases, with six patients working in flavorings manufacturing . Despite its rare occurrence, popcorn lung can cause severe and irreversible respiratory problems and should be taken seriously.


Popcorn lung is a severe and life-threatening lung disease caused by inhaling diacetyl, a butter flavoring chemical used in microwave popcorn production. If you experience any of the above signs, you should seek medical attention immediately. To prevent popcorn lung, you can switch to air-popped or stovetop popcorn and check the ingredients of popcorn products before purchasing. Awareness and education about popcorn lung are crucial to prevent the disease from affecting more people.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Flavorings-Related Lung Disease
  2. American Lung Association, Bronchiolitis Obliterans (Popcorn Lung)