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December 10, 2018

There are many different myths about vaping that lead people to believe vaping is as bad as smoking. One of these myths is that vaping causes popcorn lung. Today I am going to talk through what popcorn lung is and whether or not vaping actually causes it.

What is Popcorn Lung?

Popcorn Lung is a rare condition that damages the bronchioles (the lungs' smallest airway). Over time, inflammation associated with popcorn lung causes lung tissues and airways to scar and narrow, causing breathing problems. This gets its name from a chemical called diacetyl, which was once commonly used to give food products a rich buttery taste, like popcorn. The condition was first discovered by people working in a popcorn factory.

Why Do People Think Vaping Causes Popcorn Lung?

Some E-Liquids used to contain diacetyl, the chemical that causes popcorn lung. In one investigation, 51 flavours were tested for the chemical, and of the 51, 39 contained it. The study, however, didn't look at the issue directly, so it is currently unknown if there really is a connection between vaping and popcorn lung. Still, in 2016, diacetyl was banned in e-liquids and e-cigarettes under the EU's TPD laws, so there's no way vaping can cause popcorn lung now.

What Does Cause Popcorn Lung?

As mentioned earlier, the chemical "diacetyl" causes popcorn lung, as well as other chemicals that, as fumes, get into your lungs, like fumes from industrial cleaning chemicals, e.g. chlorine, nitrous oxide (laughing gas), metallic fumes from construction and industrial air particles, like complex dust.

There are other factors that can cause popcorn lung, like a viral or bacterial infection. If you have had a transplant, it is possible to get popcorn lung. Some drugs, like gold and penicillamine, also contributes towards popcorn lung.

Symptoms of Popcorn Lung

The symptoms of popcorn lung usually begin to take effect about 2 to 8 weeks  after infection, and slowly begin to worsen. The common signs of popcorn lung is:

  • Wheezing that isn't related to another condition like asthma
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Rapid Breathing 
  • Unexplained exhaustion
  • Dry Cough

If caused by a chemical, symptoms can include eye, skin, mouth or nose irritation. If you experience these symptoms, see a doctor.

Treatment of Popcorn Lung

Unfortunately, the lung tissue scarring from popcorn lung is irreversible once it has developed, but there are treatment options to manage or reduce the symptoms, and to limit further lung damage. It is crucial to get treatment as early as possible as, the later it gets, the harder the treatment gets.

Treatment options include:

  • Macrolide Antibiotics 
  • Steroids, specifically corticosteroids, to lessen inflammation
  • Immunosuppressive drugs which reduce the activity of the immune system and limit inflammation
  • Supplemental, Oxygen
  • Singulair, a medication that blocks specific immune cells that produce inflammation
  • For very severe cases, a lung transplant

Popcorn lung is a leading cause of death associated with heart-lung and lung transplants. It is estimated that between 50 to 60 percent of those who survive 5 years after lung transplantation experience the most severe cases of popcorn lung.

 

Be sure to be safe when around fumes that can cause popcorn lung, but don't worry. because you are safe with your vape pen. Be sure to visit a doctor if you have any problems, and happy vaping!