Three members of Congress -- George Miller (D-CA), Major Ownes (D-NY) and Hilda Solis (D-CA) called on Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao today to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to protect workers from the chemicals cause "popcorn workers lung." Two labor unions and a group of scientists petitioned OSHA last week for an emergency standard to protect workers from the chemical that is destroying their lungs.
The letter to Secretary Chao stated that
It is imperative that you take immediate steps to protect U.S. workers from bronchiolitis obliterans, a progressive and often fatal lung disease caused by occupational exposure to diacetyl, a synthetic form of butter flavoring, by issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard in accordance with section 655 (c) of the OSH Act.The representatives urged the Bush administration to take swift action before more workers fall ill and die.
Immediate action is essential to prevent new outbreaks of bronchiolitis obliterans and safeguard workers in a wide range of plants that manufacture or use synthetic butter flavoring. They include businesses that use synthetic diacetyl to manufacture butter flavoring as well as those that use the manufactured flavoring in consumer products, including microwave popcorn, baked goods, candy, frozen foods and other products.
"This is a frightening disease that has sickened or killed workers from coast to coast," said Miller, the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. "Under the Bush administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has knowingly refused to use its authority to crack down on this problem in food manufacturing plants all over the country. For the sake of these workers, it is time for that history of neglect to be reversed, and fast."
"OSHA's refusal to regulate diacetyl is costing some workers their lungs and their lives. Secretary Chao must intervene at once to stop these preventable deaths," said Owens, the senior Democrat on the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.
"OSHA's failure to regulate the flavorings industry has caused workers in my district and around the nation to develop a debilitating lung disease. It is long overdue for Secretary Chao to fulfill her legal and moral responsibility to protect these workers from this terrible, but preventable illness, by taking emergency steps to regulate diacetyl," said Solis. "I urge swift action to protect the health of workers across this country."