There are hundreds of substances used in the food flavoring manufacturing industry, and most have never been studied in terms of how they may affect the respiratory health of workers, said James E. Lockey, M.D., the studys lead researcher. These workers come into contact with large amounts of flavoring agents, sometimes in high concentrations, during the manufacturing process.
He noted that eating and drinking products with food flavorings do not pose a respiratory health threat. The ingestion of food flavoring agents are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, he said. But inhaling these substances in high concentrations into the lungs during the manufacturing process does not fall under this regulatory agency.
All five workers had normal lung function before beginning work at the plant, Dr. Lockey said. They developed moderate to severe non-reversible airway obstruction over a short period of time while working, but after they stopped working in the food flavoring manufacturing industry, they did not experience any further loss of lung function, he said. The study identified a number of substances that might potentially be harmful if inhaled in high concentrations, most notably acetaldehyde and capsaicin.