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Coffee Worker’s Lung Lawsuit

Coffee Worker’s Lung Lawsuit

Coffee workers who roast and grind beans are at risk of an incurable and deadly lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans or “Coffee Lung.” It can develop after just a few months of working in a coffee processing facility.

What You Can Do & How We Can Help

The Schmidt Firm, PLLC is currently accepting coffee worker’s lung disease cases in all 50 states. If you or somebody you know has been diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, you should contact our lawyers immediately for a free case consultation. Please use the form below to contact our Toxic Chemical Exposure Litigation Group or call toll free 24 hours a day at (866) 920-0753.

Diacetyl in Coffee Roasting

When a raw coffee bean is roasted at 430ºF, sugars and amino acids react and release a toxic compound called diacetyl into the air, creating the rich smell of roasted coffee. It is also made synthetically to create a “buttery” or “creamy” flavoring in microwave popcorn, e-cigarettes, and many types of food — including flavored coffee.

What is the risk?

Drinking coffee poses no risk because diacetyl is safe to eat. However, breathing diacetyl is known to cause lung disease. This is a major problem for coffee workers who spend their day breathing roasting fumes, especially in factories with poor ventilation.

Coffee Lung Disease

Coffee workers have been diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans after working for just a few months. The disease was nicknamed “Popcorn Lung” in the early 2000s, when hundreds of workers at microwave popcorn factories were diagnosed, including five who died. Investigators traced the illnesses to diacetyl in artificial butter flavoring.

Does Unflavored Coffee Pose a Risk?

Yes. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tested the air at two roasters in Wisconsin who only used unflavored coffee. Investigators detected diacetyl levels were 4X the “safe” exposure limit set by the CDC. In several areas, diacetyl levels were similar to those seen in microwave popcorn factories were clusters of “Popcorn Lung” occurred.

CDC Hazard Warning for Coffee Workers

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is currently investigating occupational exposure to diacetyl in coffee roasting, grinding, and flavoring facilities. The agency has observed employees with respiratory symptoms consistent with undiagnosed lung disease.

High levels of diacetyl have been detected in the following areas:

  • Flavorings added to roasted coffee beans
  • Grinding and packaging roasted coffee beans
  • Storage areas where roasted beans off-gas in hoppers

Texas Coffee Workers Lawsuit Settlement

The first lawsuit was filed by a group of five coffee workers from Tyler, Texas who were diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans after breathing diacetyl from hazelnut-flavored coffee beans. One victim was put on a waiting list for a lung transplant. The lawsuit was filed in 2012, and the workers reached a confidential settlement in October 2014.

What is Bronchiolitis Obliterans?

The windpipe splits into two branches, with one lung on each side. Airways keep splitting two by two deep inside the lungs. The tiniest airways before you get to the air-sacs are called bronchioles.

Bronchiolitis obliterans causes inflammation, scarring (called “fibrosis”), and gradual narrowing of the bronchioles. This makes it very hard to breathe. There is no way to reverse scarring and many people require a lung transplant. In rare cases, it can be deadly.

Symptoms of Coffee Lung

The symptoms can progress gradually or occur suddenly. They do not go away when the worker goes home or on vacation. The disease is irreversible and has no cure, which means symptoms are usually permanent. They may include:

  • Persistent dry cough
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Obstructive airway disease
  • Fever
  • Weight-loss

Disease is Commonly Misdiagnosed

Bronchiolitis obliterans is extremely rare in people who are not exposed to diacetyl at work. In many cases, the disease is misdiagnosed as asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, pneumonia, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), or symptoms are blamed on cigarette smoking.

Do I have a Coffee Lung Lawsuit?

The Schmidt Firm, PLLC is currently accepting coffee worker’s lung disease cases in all 50 states. If you or somebody you know has been diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, you should contact our lawyers immediately for a free case consultation. Please use the form below to contact our Toxic Chemical Exposure Litigation Group or call toll free 24 hours a day at (866) 920-0753.

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