Dec 3, 2010

UFCW Applauds California OSHA as it Implements First State Standard Protecting Workers from Popcorn Lung

Today Cal/OSHA implemented a new standard to protect employees who work with diacetyl, a chemical commonly used in food flavorings. Cal/OSHA, a division of the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), is the first and only state-OSHA plan to have such a standard. The new standard requires employers covered by the standard to create a regulated area for each process using diacetyl, unless the process is enclosed.

This action follows the UFCW, Western States Council and the California Labor Federation's petition to the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to immediately issue an Emergency Temporary Standard for diacetyl, a deadly chemical used in flavorings. This occurred after The UFCW Internationl and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters petitioned the Department of Labor (DOL) for an Emergency Temporary Standard for diacetyl under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Diacetyl is a hazardous chemical that has been connected to a potentially fatal lung disease that has been experienced by food industry workers across the nation. There have been dozens of cases of what has become known as "popcorn workers lung," or bronchiolitis obliterans-a severe, disabling, and often-fatal lung disease experienced by factory workers who produce or handle diacetyl. Several food industry employees in California have developed devastating lung problems after being exposed to diacetyl in the workplace. There are currently no OSHA standards requiring exposures to diacetyl and flavorings be controlled.

According to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, there are 16 - 20 plants producing flavorings in the state of California. And thousands of food processing workers are involved in the production of popcorn, pastries, frozen foods, candies and even dog food that use these chemicals.The UFCW represents workers in many of these food processing plants.

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