What is Popcorn Lung? Can You Get it From Vaping?

Last updated on October 14th, 2023

What is Popcorn Lung? Can You Get It From Vaping?

Does Vaping Flavored E-liquids Cause Popcorn Lung?

You may be worried about the safety of e-liquids if you vape, or are considering vaping. While many e-juice companies list their ingredients, you may wonder if there are hidden chemicals such as Diacetyl – a flavor additive that has been linked to the lung disease known as “popcorn lung”.  

Can vaping certain e-liquids increase your chances of getting this disease? This article will answer that question.

What is Popcorn Lung Disease?

In 2002, a dangerous but rare lung disease, bronchiolitis obliterans came to be known as “popcorn lung” when 8 workers at a popcorn factory contracted the disease. Air samples tested in the room where workers got sick showed a high amount of diacetyl. Diacetyl was used to give the popcorn a buttery flavor.

Later that year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a paper about the incident, but that paper was somewhat inconclusive. 

How Did Popcorn Lung Become Linked with Vaping?

In 2015, a single study was conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health. It looked at whether e-cigarette liquid contained diacetyl. Only 51 of over 4000 available flavors were tested. 39 of the 51 e-liquids tested contained some level of the flavor chemical. 

The Harvard study did not look at whether there was a link between e-cigarette use and popcorn lung, yet the idea that e-cigarettes may cause popcorn lung came from this study.

The Dangers of Diacetyl – Does Vaping Flavored E-Liquids Cause Popcorn Lung?

According to Cancer Research UK

“There’s no good evidence that e-cigarettes could cause the lung condition called popcorn lung. There’s been no cases of popcorn lung reported in people who use e-cigarettes.”

source: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/cancer-controversies/does-vaping-cause-popcorn-lung

Despite the fact that not a single case of bronchiolitis obliterans has ever been attributed to vaping, the scare continues. 

Scientific tests performed by researchers, led by Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos concluded that contracting bronchiolitis obliterans (“popcorn lung disease”) is rare, even in cases of exposure to high levels of diacetyl. 

Farsalinos is the world’s foremost clinical researcher on vapor product safety. He agreed with Cancer Research UK, that diacetyl in e-cigarettes is highly unlikely to cause popcorn lung; however, he did say that the ingredient was an “avoidable risk” and should be removed from vapor products.

Do Some E-liquids Still Contain Diacetyl?

When the Harvard study was released, the e-cigarette industry took action, with most companies removing the flavor additives diacetyl and acetyl proprionyl from their e-liquid formulas. Some e-liquid brands still contain very small amounts of diacetyl that can be detected in lab reports.

The UK has banned diacetyl from all e-liquids.

Check out: Where to buy U.S. e-liquids that are diacetyl and acetyl proprionyl free

So, Why Are We Publishing This Article Now?

It has been years since scientific tests concluded that vaping does not cause popcorn lung. What’s more, most manufacturers no longer use diacetyl as a flavor ingredient. The answer is that many people still believe diacetyl is found in all flavored e-liquids – and that vaping diacetyl is dangerous. The 2002 case of 2 workers in a popcorn factory who contracted bronchiolitis obliterans will not be forgotten. Neither will the sensational “diacetyl scare” headlines that appeared when the Harvard University report was published.

What About the Safety of CBD and THC Vape Oil?

More recently, many people are convinced that flavored medical marijuana, or CBD e-liquid used in pre-filled mini-tanks will give them this rare lung disease.

According to all the experts, scientists and researchers who have studied the effects of diacetyl use in e-cigs, it is not going to happen!.. yet, the now debunked fear of dangerous e-liquids continues to scare people away from vaping. 

For the record, there are over 6000 micrograms of diacetyl in every pack of cigarettes and so far not a single smoker has contracted popcorn lung.

If you are looking for more information about diacetyl and whether it can cause bronchiolitis obliterans, you can read this article from Snopes, the internet’s fact-checking resource.

Still Worried About What May Be Lurking in Your E-liquids? 

Here are some of the most reputable e-liquid companies that list all their ingredients, certifications or provide lab reports that indicate the ingredients and percentages.

CBDfx – CBD e-liquids made with organic ingredients that are non-GMO and pesticide free.

Kind Juice all natural e-liquids

Vaporfi e-liquids- Pure, Kosher and Diacetyl, Acetoin and Acetyl Propionyl Free

MIG Vapor – U.S. made e-liquids with no Diacetyl (lab reports included on the website)

Are you concerned that vaping flavored e-liquids will cause lung disease? Do you think it is safer to smoke? We welcome your comments.

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    • Troy on September 10, 2020 at 2:49 am
    • Reply

    Being on e-cig for a year, then graduated to mods for 10 years now, the last 2 years and currently still, using a Geek Vape Aegis Mod (great product btw, sucks its made in china). I’ve been vaping for 12 years. Sure, I wheeze, but I’m also overweight, my taste has come back, I can literally, stop and smell the roses.

    I vaped cream and butter flavors (ie: butterscotch) for YEARS! Yep! Sure did have that “fake news” chemical in it, Diacetyl. However, even after learning how to DIY e liquids, I weaned myself off of the Butterscotch, being the main flavor in my DIY mix. Yep, found a butterscotch flavor that didn’t have the Diacetyl in it, JUUUuust in case. Keep in mind, I vaped the heck out that butterscotch for at least 3 years! I currently buy Cappella’s Cinnamon Blueberry Crumble concentrate, yep, it’s got the Diacetyl step brother chemicals Acetyl Propionyl and/or Acetoin… I’ve been making it ALONG with a hint of butterscotch for the last 4 years.. Hmmm… hang on, let me Breeeathe in.,…..breeeathe out.. Wah Lah! No “popcorn lung”. So, Ms. Hillary Miles, I would be a PRIME candidate for popcorn lung right? I mean, one would think so, after 7 solid years of vaping at least Acetyl Propionyl and/or Acetoin. But, yet….Hmm, Nothing?

    I have more energy and don’t get winded like i did when i smoked cigarettes. I like the flavor, I like the amounts I mix, and most of all, I believe, like you and so many others that vape, it’s a WHOLE lot safer than cigarettes. I didn’t WANT to quit smoking, but I also knew that if I didn’t, the 600 ingredients that make up 7000 chemicals (according to the American Lung Association)…..”at least 69 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer, and many are toxic.” (reference the link for proof: https://www.lung.org/quit-smoking/smoking-facts/whats-in-a-cigarette)….Yet, they don’t outlaw tobacco? But, they’re going to charge a million dollars per flavor per mix for fda approval on vape juice? REALLY? Sure, vaping isn’t an ideal life-long substitute for cigarettes, however, its a WHOLE lot healthier! Big tobacco is losing money, so, line politicians pockets with some of that money and put food flavoring, better alternate to smoking, out of business? Hmm.. It’s all politics! Thank you by the way Hillary, I like you article. Good job 🙂 Easy to understand and quite precise. Vape on!

    1. Thanks for the comment and the kudos Troy!

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