Hazardous Snacks

Wayne Watson loved extra-buttery microwave popcorn. In fact you might say the 53-year-old furniture salesman was a popcorn addict. For more than 10 years he microwaved two or three packages a day at work and in his Colorado home, often breaking open the bags to inhale the fragrance before diving in.

When Watson developed symptoms of a lung condition, the first doctor he consulted was puzzled. Watson didn't smoke and had not been exposed to excessive amounts of mold or bird droppings--all of which can cause lung inflammation.

Fama says one manufacturer alone paid more than $50 million in settlements. Total verdicts and settlements are in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

"We have workers that work in the flavoring companies [where the butter flavorings are manufactured], we have candy workers who are sick because anything with butter flavoring attached to it contains diacetyl, including butterscotch. Even root beer has diacetyl in it," McClain says. "We also have cases for people living around plants where diacetyl is used."

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Mary Swanton

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