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House Labor Committee passes diacetyl legislation (6/22)

The House Education and Labor Committee approved legislation Wednesday in a bipartisan voice vote to force OSHA to act to protect workers at food processing plants from exposure to diacetyl.

Diacetyl is a chemical used in artificial flavoring in microwave popcorn and has been linked to bronchiolitis obliterans, also known as “popcorn lung,” a disease that has sickened and killed a number of workers nationwide.

“What’s troubling is that if OSHA had taken action in a timely manner, we would not need to pass a bill to require OSHA to do something that it should have done a long time ago,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections and chief sponsor of the legislation. “While OSHA has ignored the warnings of NIOSH and others concerning this devastating disease, workers have become sick and disabled, and several have died, all in an astonishingly short period of time. That’s why this legislation is so important — it will save lives.”

The legislation would require OSHA to issue an interim final standard within 90 days to minimize workers’ exposure to diacetyl in popcorn and flavorings in manufacturing plants. Employers would be required to develop a written exposure control plan that would use engineering controls and respirators to protect workers, and to conduct medical monitoring to determine whether workers’ health continued to be harmed.

The bill would require OSHA to issue a more comprehensive standard within two years, covering all workplaces where workers are exposed to diacetyl.

The bill must yet pass through the House and Senate.

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