Some Oklahoma workers in plants that make microwave popcorn or flavorings may be vulnerable to a type of lung disease known as obliterative bronchiolitis. This disease causes scarring of small airways in the lungs. Shortness of breath during exertion and a cough without phlegm are symptoms of the disease, but in some cases, a mild cough may be the only symptom.
The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety was called to Missouri in 2000 to investigate cases of obliterative bronchiolitis among former microwave popcorn plant workers. As a result, NIOSH began working with microwave popcorn and flavorings manufacturers to research workplace safety and how this lung disease could be prevented. In 2004, NIOSH produced a paper on the topic.
Workers should take note of symptoms such as a persistent cough or shortness of breath as well as irritation to the skin, nose, throat, or eyes. According to NIOSH, physicians should advise workers in these industries who present with these symptoms on preventative measures including wearing protective gear or possibly leaving the industry. Workers may also develop asthma or find that it worsens.
Workers who suffer injuries or illnesses as a result of their job may be eligible for workers' compensation. Many workers do not realize that they have the right to file for compensation, and workers may want to have a consultation with an attorney to find out what their rights are. It is also illegal for employers to attempt to intimidate workers who file for workers' compensation. Workers who are facing intimidation or feel that they are being made to work in an unsafe environment may wish to speak to an attorney also. An attorney may be helpful in filing workers' compensation paperwork and in an appeals process if the claim is initially denied or disputed.