Exposure to flavorings, Diacetyl, 2,3-pentanedione and Acetoin, in workplace settings.

Diacetyl, 2,3-pentanedione, and acetoin are flavorings that are commonly used in the manufacturing and packaging of foods, but they have also been linked to serious health risks, including obliterative bronchiolitis, also known as "popcorn lung."

10 AUG 2023 ALS

There are 3 flavorings that have been the subject of studies over the last few years, by both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). They are:

  • Diacetyl – provides a buttery flavor.
  • 2,3-Pentanedione – one of the diacetyl substitutes.
  • Acetoin – provides a dairy/cream flavor.

The exposure potential is from inhalation during the manufacturing and packaging of various foods (not from eating / ingesting). Studies have been published from sampling in various types of facilities, including those that grind coffee beans and make flavored popcorn. 


What are the health risks of exposure to diacetyl, 2,3-pentanedione, and acetoin?

Exposure to diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione has been linked to a serious lung disease called obliterative bronchiolitis, also known as "popcorn lung." This disease causes the bronchioles, the smallest airways in the lungs, to become scarred and constricted. This can make it difficult to breathe.

The symptoms of popcorn lung can include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue In severe cases, popcorn lung can lead to respiratory failure.


How can workers be exposed to these flavorings?

Workers can be exposed to diacetyl, 2,3-pentanedione, and acetoin in the workplace through inhalation of airborne particles or vapors. This can occur during the manufacturing and packaging of foods that contain these flavorings, as well as in the cleaning of equipment that has been used to process these foods.

The level of exposure to these flavorings can vary depending on the type of work being done, the ventilation in the workplace, and the personal protective equipment (PPE) that is used.


How can exposure to these flavorings be reduced?

There are a number of ways to reduce exposure to diacetyl, 2,3-pentanedione, and acetoin in the workplace.

These include:

  • Using alternative flavorings that do not contain these chemicals.
  • Ensuring that good ventilation is in place to remove airborne particles and vapors.
  • Providing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as respirators, to workers who may be exposed to these chemicals.
  • Monitoring employee exposure levels and taking steps to reduce exposure if necessary.


What are ALS's services for limiting exposure to these flavorings?

ALS can help you assess the risk of exposure to diacetyl, 2,3-pentanedione, and acetoin in your workplace and recommend ways to reduce exposure by offering

  • Workplace air sampling and analysis
  • Risk assessment and recommendations
  • Training and education
  • Compliance assistance

ALS will guide you through the process by technical Project Manager. We can provide complete sampling guidance, sampling media and the option to rent sampling pumps, all to make your life easier.


Technical facts:

The air method for diacetyl and acetoin is OSHA 1012 [pdf]. Method OSHA 1016 [pdf], for 2,3-pentanedione, can also be modified for analysis from the same air sample as diacetyl and acetoin. The sampling media consists of a 2-tube sampling train containing specially a small filter and specially cleaned silica gel (SKC #226-183).

The “A” tube is the front section, and the “B” tube is the back section (closest to the sampling pump). Samples are light-sensitive and must be protected using tube covers, aluminum foil, and/or opaque bags during sampling and transport.

Cold storage after sampling is recommended for method OSHA 1012, while samples for 2-3-pentanedione need to be both stored and shipped cold.


Please contact us today to learn how ALS can help with your testing needs.