First Consumer With Popcorn Lung Speaks Out

Wayne Watson, the man who loved microwave popcorn so much he ate it twice a day for 10 years is speaking out about his condition for the first time.

He’s telling America to learn from his example and practice moderation.

From the Associated Press:

In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, the 53-year-old furniture salesman had a message to convey: “America: Read the labels, and just be careful about what we put into our bodies and always practice moderation,” Watson said. “Don’t go crazy.”

Popcorn flavoring contains the chemical diacetyl, which has been linked to lung damage in factory workers testing hundreds of bags of microwave popcorn per day and inhaling its fumes. The chemical is a naturally occurring compound that gives butter its flavor and is also found in cheese and even wine, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

It’s been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a flavor ingredient, but hundreds of workers have sued flavoring makers in recent years for lung damage.

While eating diacetyl seems to be ok, inhaling it constantly is another matter.

On Wednesday, the nation’s largest microwave popcorn maker, ConAgra, said it would stop using diacetyl within a year out of concern for its workers — not because of risks to consumers. ConAgra makes Act II and Orville Redenbacher brands.

The Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association said that Rose’s finding does not suggest a risk from eating microwave popcorn.

Popcorn Lung Patient Inhaled Fumes Daily [Associated Press]
Colorado Popcorn Lung Victim Talks About His Illness [CBS 4]
(Photo:CBS 4)


Edit Your Comment

  1. timmus says:

    …factory workers testing hundreds of bags of microwave popcorn per day and inhaling its fumes.
    Er, what?

  2. killavanilla says:

    Listen, I love popcorn more than the next guy.
    But twice a day for 10 years?
    This guy’s colon has got to be in fine shape….
    I suspect his next round of issues will be digestive.

  3. chrispiss says:

    That’s good of him to tell others to learn of his mistake, instead of suing.

  4. AcidReign says:

        Not to make light of this situation (because it may well be a SERIOUS problem with long-term consequences!), but I can’t tell the difference between ACT II popcorn and the paper it comes in. They both taste the same. Redenbacher isn’t much better. Pop Secret Movie Theater Butter is the way to go!

        Better yet, mix up some sour cream/ranch dip, and eat Golden Flake potato chips. Mmmmm. Salt, salt, salt. Yeah, baby!

  5. pestie says:

    Diacetylmorphine = heroin. That’s all I’m sayin’.

  6. adamwade says:

    It’s things like this that make me go the natural route when possible. Hey, I like processed food as much as the next guy, but something tells me when I make a batch of my own popcorn with an old stew pot, butter (real butter, not margarine), pure oil, and corn I’m doing much better for myself.

  7. majikaltoast says:

    “the man who loved microwave popcorn so much he ate it twice a day for 10 years” … had a message to convey: “…always practice moderation,” Watson said. “Don’t go crazy.”

    Maybe he should have taken his own advice…

  8. Ncisfan says:

    @majikaltoast: Hey It’s better than him suing …. Very admirable

  9. bboehm says:

    At least it doesn’t contain anti-freeze…

  10. peggynature says:

    @killavanilla: Popcorn is high in fibre. I bet his colon is just fine. Too bad about the lungs, though.

  11. Anything eaten in excess is eventually going to kill you. What was he expecting?

  12. VidaLondres says:

    I read about this earlier, and I think because of the fact that the illness (the destruction of small air-passages in the lungs) is caused by the flavored butter, rather than the corn, it would be better named as:

    Butter Lung

    due to the similarity to black lung.

  13. morganlh85 says:

    If that were me I would be too embarrassed to come out with my story.

  14. homerjay says:

    From what I can see, this guy is in a LOT better shape than I expected him to be.

    I was expecting a slovenly mess of a man.

  15. Spinfusor says:

    It boggles my mind that anyone could be stupid enough to eat 7,300+ bags of popcorn.

  16. Lin-Z [linguist on duty] says:

    Buddha gave us the same message years ago! Way to come around, popcorn-man.

  17. rickhamilton620 says:

    What did this guy do, inhale deeply from the bag after opening it?

  18. ellmar says:


    previous reports indicated that he has lost 50 lbs since the diagnosis and subsequent de-popcornization of his diet

  19. Musician78 says:

    I can’t understand why people like popcorn. It is so nasty, and even the smell of it makes me want to hurl.

  20. GitEmSteveDave says:

    As someone who hasn’t eaten pre-packaged microwave popcorn in a very long time(I use a microwave popper I got at Target, corn oil, and popping corn), can anyone do the math to see how much this guy paid for his twice a day habit? I wonder what his electric bills were like. Do they say what brand HE ate?

    Maybe his lung damage was do to sitting in front of the microwave waiting for the two second pop rule, and he breathed th vapors from the exhaust of the microwave. Of course, I doubt sitting/standing in front of a microwave everyday can be very good for you. Or your possible offspring.

  21. GitEmSteveDave says:

    @VidaLondres: “Butter Lung” is going to now be the name of either a band or a rapper.

  22. Abqnative says:

    Uhmm… He also says to read the label, I don’t recall any kind of warning on the popcorn bag about diacety. If the company knew about this why didn’t they do something earlier? I kinda blame the FDA for not putting the word out to the public (at least I have never heard of this) warning about this particular danger. But then, they have put warning labels on cigarette packaging and look how well that worked.

  23. ludwigk says:

    I don’t eat that much popcorn, but when I do, it’s whatever is available from the bulk foods of Whole Foods. Poping Corn is like $.79/lb.

    So enough popcorn to stuff me and half a dozen friends costs about a quarter (plus butter, salt, gas stove).

    It’s better for you, you know what’s going into it, and it doesn’t take any longer than microwaving 2 bags of popcorn.

    It seems unfortunate to me that microwave popcorn bag air can ruin your health. When I used the make microwave popcorn, one of the joys of the process was the jet of searing hot buttery air that comes at you when you open the bag.

  24. killavanilla says:

    Popcorn IS high in fiber. Which is why I would think his colon may have blown an o-ring.
    Seriously. two bags of popcorn a day would put me on the pot for hours. OUCH!

  25. Beerad says:

    Okay, in response to a number of comments, yes, he actually liked to open the bags fresh out of the microwave and inhale the fumes. About twice a day, every day for years and years. A little weird, not my cup of tea personally, but hey, the guy likes his popcorn. I think his comments now about moderation are in the vein of “My situation is absurd, I had no freaking idea this could happen, and I guess we just all need to be careful because who knows what manufacturers are serving us.”

    I just feel bad for the guy. You buy food, you don’t expect that you need to wear a gas mask when preparing it.

    @Blaire (with an e): He was probably expecting that food companies weren’t selling him a product that would cause his lungs to disintegrate when he smelled it cooking.

  26. enroper says:

    Was anybody else expecting this guy to be enormously huge? I cant imagine popcorn, twice daily, being all that healthy.

  27. Juliekins says:

    @enroper: Popcorn is a whole grain, and as others have said is high in fiber. If he filled up on popcorn and didn’t eat large meals/other snacks, it’s reasonable to believe that he’s not “Jerry Springer Had To Cut Off The Side of My House” huge.

    …she says as she polishes off a mini-bag of 94% fat free Act II popcorn…