Popcorn Worker’s Lung: UK’s First Case

Popcorn Worker's Lung - Compensation Claim

20.02.2008

A Yorkshire man is believed to be the first person in the UK to develop ‘Popcorn Worker’s Lung,’ a breathing condition affecting workers in the food packaging industry.

Martin Muir, 38, from Bedale, North Yorkshire, issued court proceedings against his former employer Firmenich, based in Thirsk, after he developed bronchiolitis obliterans. The case settled before it went to trial at Newcastle County Court.

The condition has been nicknamed Popcorn Worker’s Lung in the United States, after a number of high-profile cases involving people working in the popcorn manufacturing and packaging industry there.

Mr Muir is being represented by leading personal injury law firm Irwin Mitchell, which says the condition is caused by exposure to the chemical diacetyl, an agent used in food manufacture that is known to cause irreversible lung damage when inhaled.

Neil Wilkinson, Mr Muir’s solicitor, claims his client was exposed to diacetyl while preparing a mix of food flavourings, known as ‘base veg,’ and that he has been left with a lung capacity reduced by around 25 per cent.

He added: “This condition is rarely diagnosed and medical experts who have come into contact with Mr Muir believe he is the first such case in the UK.

"There is a suspicion, however, that this condition may be more widespread than is generally thought. Given the type of work in which Mr Muir was involved, I would be surprised if this was an isolated case.

"This case emphasises the need for employers to ensure that their employees are protected by adequate respiratory protection when performing work which brings them into contact with hazardous substances.”

Mr Wilkinson claims Mr Muir’s exposure to diacetyl occurred during his employment at Firmenich on two occasions, on 12th April 2006 and again approximately one month later.