I am beginnig a regular new feature here and will create a short post on Tuesdays with a clear focus on awareness of a particular toxin or source of toxin. I will provide clear actionable tips or steps to take to avoid exposure to it. As you might know from following me on Facebook, I have been participating in a challenge to more consistently post articles on my blog. This is the Ultimate Blog Challenge and participants are challenged to do 30 blog posts in 30 days. Today is Day #9. So today will be the beginning of "Tuesday Toxin Awareness Tips" with today's post.
Last night, my granddaughter (age 7) asked me to pop some popcorn for her. You might be thinking, well, if she's 7, can't she just literally 'pop' one of those microwave popcorn bags into the microwave and bing, bang, boom--hit the buttons to turn it on for the allotted time and be done with it?? Today's toxin awareness tip is about the two-fold chemical danger in microwave popcorn. We NEVER buy or use microwave popcorn in our home due to the potential for exposure to 2 very scary chemicals, PFOA and diacetyl.
Diacetyl is a chemical in the artificial butter flavor found in popcorn. (Hint--if a food label says 'artificial' in the ingredient list, think twice before consuming it or having your children consume it!) Diacetyl has been implicated in a debilitating lung condition more commonly seen in popcorn factory workers exposed to this artificial butter flavor. The exposure comes from inhaling the chemical, not from ingesting it. When a bag of microwave popcorn flavored with diacetyl is opened, the steam that escapes when you open that bag contains higher concentrations of diacetyl and can travel down to your lungs when you inhale that buttery popcorn scent.
At most risk are factory workers but consumers should increase awareness and avoid these artificial butter flavored microwave popcorn products, too. Good news is that many of the big manufacturers of popcorn have voluntarily removed diacetyl from their products but the new chemicals that are replacing diacetyl are possibly as worrisome. Dr. Andrew Weil has an article about microwave popcorn that sheds some light on this. Click on his name to read his article.
The double whammy with microwave popcorn includes the second hit with the chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) found in the lining of the microwave bag. This material is used to prevent popcorn from sticking to the bag when it is heated in the microwave. Also found in the lining of pizza boxes and in nonstick cookware, this chemical has been classified by an advisory group to the Environmental Protection Agency as a likely carcinogen. This material gets into the popcorn and even though the function of this chemical is a non-stick coating, this stuff sticks around inside your body for years! Once it's in you, it's hard to get it out. Human studies have shown that about 95% of humans have traces of this material in their bodies--even though we know not all of it is coming from microwave popcorn.
So the artificial butter flavor chemical is connected to a type of chronic debilitating lung condition and the PFOA in the microwave popcorn bag is correlated with human cancer. That's enough for me to take it off the shelves in our home--especially when there are other ways to have popcorn that are not toxic.
You CAN still enjoy popcorn, though, so don't despair. Popcorn can be air-popped with a special appliance that can be purchased inexpensively or popped on the stove in a pot (don't use a nonstick pot, though!) with a little oil. Flavorings can be added with natural ingredients--such as Dr. Weil's suggestion to flavor with some tamari, garlic powder and maybe some cayenne. Check out this video for the best technique to prevent burning the popcorn or having too many of those unpopped kernels when you cook your popcorn on the stovetop.
What action steps will you take after increasing your awareness to these particular toxins in microwave popcorn? Please leave a comment here and let me know.