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Can roasting coffee trigger irreversible lung damage?

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Can roasting coffee trigger irreversible lung damage?

Thereport24.com Desk:

From a strong Americano to a frothy cappuccino, four billion cups of coffee are knocked back every day across the globe.

And behind the scenes, thousands of people work at coffee plants, roasting green coffee beans until they change into the rich-flavoured brown ones that are ground down to make a tasty drink.

But coffee workers may be in danger of irreversible lung diseases, according to an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Roasting coffee releases a chemical called diacetyl, an organic chemical used in food flavourings, most famously in the butter-flavouring added to popcorn.

It is considered safe to eat, but studies show it can be toxic if heated and inhaled over a long period.

In the 1990s, popcorn plant workers exposed to these levels of fumes suffered serious, incurable lung diseases, after just a few months, according to a report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Specifically, they suffered obliterative bronchiolitis - a rare, irreversible form of lung disease now known as ‘popcorn workers' lung’.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wanted to find out if people working in coffee roasting factories could be facing similar dangers.

Reporters there tested the air at two mid-sized roasteries in Wisconsin for diacetyl levels in the air.

They found levels were up to four times higher than the limits set by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, putting workers in danger.

However the results expose problems only when coffee is roasted on an industrial scale - and are not relevant to baristas grinding the black stuff in cafe or to caffeine-lovers pushing down cafeterias at home.

'Diacetyl particles are small enough that they bypass hairs and mucous in the nose and throat and get into those very smallest airway passages,' Alan Barker, a pulmonary specialist at Oregon Health and Science University told Wired.

'There has been a suggestive study done of coffee roasting workers, compared to people who had desk jobs in coffee plants,' he added.

'And they showed that the roasters had more things like cough and shortness of breath than those who were not closely exposed.'

Diacetyl is also released while makin bread, brewing beer, making wine, and in other food-making processes. Source: Daily Mail

Ends/thereport24.com/MI/Oct 10, 2015