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Man awarded $7.2 million in ‘popcorn lung’ lawsuit

Reuters / A U.S. Federal Court jury has awarded a Colorado man $7.2 million in damages for developing a chronic condition known as “popcorn lung” from a chemical used in flavouring microwave popcorn.

Jurors agreed with the claims by Wayne Watson, 59, that the popcorn manufacturer and the supermarket chain that sold it were negligent by failing to warn on labels that the butter flavouring, diacetyl, was dangerous.

The condition is a form of obstructive lung disease that makes it difficult for air to flow out of the lungs and is irreversible, according to WebMd.

Watson, of suburban Denver, was the first consumer of microwave popcorn diagnosed with the disease, bronchiolitis obliterans, his attorney Kenneth McClain said.

Watson was diagnosed in 2007 at a Denver respiratory health centre, after years of inhaling the smell of artificial butter on the popcorn he said he ate daily.

The verdict was the latest in a line of cases in the past 15 years, starting with workers in popcorn plants where diacetyl was an ingredient, that has linked the chemical to health problems.

The defendant’s attorney argued Watson’s health problems were from his years of using dangerous chemicals as a carpet cleaner.

Similar cases are pending in Federal Court in Iowa and in state court in New York, Watson’s attorney said.

McClain said he has represented microwave popcorn and flavouring workers across the U.S. who began suing in 2004 and have been awarded large damages.

The jury took a day to reach its verdict after a nine-day trial.

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