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activities which are more popular or enjoyable than sitting down to watch a movie with a steaming bag of freshly popped microwave popcorn. The smell and taste of microwave popcorn both invoke strong sensory cues often associated with the pleasant experience of cinema viewer-ship. It is not often that we stop to consider the content of these convenient single-serve bags, either nutritionally or chemically. However, new evidence is emerging all the time to suggest that there are significant and alarming health imperatives to begin examining our popcorn more closely. As the discussion here will show, popcorn as a snack-food is fairly innocuous and, in fact, if served properly, can be an excellent low-calorie source of carbohydrates. However, when combined with the synthetic substances, the additives and the packaging compounds used in a bag of microwave popcorn, popcorn can present its consumer with severe health risks.
This is particularly troubling because of the severity of these health risks and the degree to which microwave popcorn consumption so thoroughly penetrates consumer buying habits today. As the text by Noble & Noble (2011) indicate, Americans collectively purchase roughly 3 billion bags of microwave popcorn annually. And until recently, this was not a trend which invited any great concern. However, "a few years ago, popcorn factory workers became concerned with a condition known as 'popcorn lung' caused by an airborne butter flavoring chemical called diacetyl. This was a fatal condition for factory workers, causing thickening and scarring of the lungs. It wasn't considered a big problem for those of us who aren't exposed to it at such high levels; however there was a story of a man who ate 2 bags of microwave popcorn a day who developed popcorn lung." (Noble & Noble, p. 1)
The concern over diacetyl has prompted a substantial consumer backlash against microwave popcorn, especially in the shadow of mounting evidence that long-term consumption of microwave popcorn might result in similar ill-effects. According to the article by Sagon (2012), the popularity of microwave popcorn is a significant road-block to intervening with its consumption even as it proves to be a significant health risk. According to Sagon, the primary cause for the health concerns associated with microwave popcorn actually stems from the use of certain chemicals in the lining of the bag itself. Sagon identifies these chemicals as perflurooctagonic acid (PFOA) and reports that they are frighteningly common in food packaging well-beyond microwave popcorn. Sagon reports that "PFOA is also used to make Teflon and other stain- and stick-resistant materials, including pizza boxes. It's part of a number of compounds that have caused liver, testicular and pancreatic cancer in animals. The chemicals may also be linked to infertility in women, according to a recent study at the University of California, Los Angeles." (Sagon, p. 1)
Sagon also goes on to indicate that PFOAs have been connected to childhood immunities to certain critical vaccines, making children with high levels of PFOA in their bloodstream more vulnerable to illness. In light of these concerns, it is troubling to note, according to Sagon, that roughly 95% of Americans have detectable traces of PFOA in their bloodstreams. What proportion of this is attributable to the mass consumption of microwave popcorn is uncertain, however, Sagon describes a reaction in which the process of microwaving the bag of popcorn causes the chemicals in the lining of the bag to seep into the popcorn that is then directly ingested.
Sagon reports that many popcorn makers are beginning to or have already taken significant steps forward in removing the identified chemical of diacetyl from their packaging. However, even those which have taken this step have in most cases replaced diacetyl with substances likely to have similar adverse health consequences but as yet unidentified in any popular or research-based context. The text by Adams (2011) reports that, in fact, researchers have been aware of the adverse consequences possible with exposure to diacetyl. And until the man above-mentioned contracted the bronchiolitis obliterans from consuming two bags a day, it was assumed that this condition was likely only to impact factory workers. However, Adams notes that the man's diagnosis would prompt direct attention to diacetyl and, in one regard, obscuring the risk posed by other chemicals to be used in popcorn packaging. According to Adams, the popcorn-consuming individual noted above would reveal for the first time to researchers evidence
"indicating that diacetyl enters the air and lungs when microwave popcorn is cooked. Anxious to reassure…[continue]
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