Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Popcorn Workers Lung Disease Prevention Act - Walberg Votes No

On September 26, 2007, the House of Representatives voted on HR 2693, the Popcorn Workers Lung Disease Prevention Act. Speaker Pelosi's website explains:
This legislation responds to the appearance of a fatal and irreversible disease called bronchiolitis obliterans that appeared among a group of workers in a popcorn plant in 2000. The disease, which has come to be known as “popcorn lung,” is connected to diacetyl, a chemical used in artificial butter flavoring that the workers were exposed to, according to the National Institute for Occupations Safety and Health (NIOSH). The NIOSH scientists said that diacetyl caused “astonishingly grotesque” damage to the lungs, and likened exposure to the chemical to “inhaling acid."

Seven years after the first cases of popcorn lung were identified, and five years after NIOSH published its first report, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has failed to issue a standard protecting American workers from exposure to diacetyl. Many of the workers identified with severe lung damage have needed lung transplants, and several have died.

The Popcorn Workers Lung Disease Prevention Act:
  • Requires OSHA to issue an Interim Final Standard within 90 days of the date this law takes effect that would apply to flavor manufacturing establishments and the microwave popcorn processing and packaging industry. This includes engineering controls, respiratory protection, exposure monitoring, medical surveillance and worker training.

    It would also require employers to develop a written exposure control plan that will indicate specific measures the employer will take to minimize employee exposure.

  • Requires OSHA to issue a final standard within two years. That standard would apply to all locations where diacetyl is used. It would also set a specific limit on how much diacetyl workers could be exposed to.
This is the first I had ever heard of the issue. Still, if people are having serious medical problems related to this, it seems like OSHA ought to do something about it.

The bill passed, 260 to 154. Forty-seven Republicans joined in supporting the bill, including Michigan's Thad McCotter, Candice Miller, and Fred Upton.

Congressman Tim Walberg voted No.

As far as I know, he never issued a statement on this vote, but I'd be curious to know his reasoning. Does Walberg have scientific evidence suggesting that it's not that big of a deal? Is it an objection to government regulation in general? Does Walberg just not like popcorn or the workers who make it?

Really, I'd like to know. One would have thought this was a pretty straight-forward bill to support. Congressman Walberg, or any staffers reading, would you care to comment? Was there a reason to vote against this bill?

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Maybe if Walberg's church had sent some aid to the affected workers, and Walberg had housed one of the affected popcorn employees in his basement for a few years, he would have some more compassion...

(If anyone "gets" this, please let me know. I understand it is quite a leap, but it is intended to be funny.)
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