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pop-corn-lungDid you know that eating too much microwaveable popcorn could take away your lung capacity?

A Colorado man found out the hard way when he contracted bronchiolitis obliterans or “popcorn lung” from eating too much microwave popcorn made by manufacturer Glister-Mary Lee. Apparently, a chemical known as diacetyl – which some manufacturers utilize to give the popcorn its buttery smell- is the culprit.

The plaintiff in this action was awarded $7.2 million for his injuries, of which about $5 million was to punish (punitive damages) the manufacturer. The plaintiff lost 50% of his lung capacity due to inhaling the chemical diacetyl.

Under California law, the manufacturer would be liable for failing to warn of the potential risk of consuming too much microwave popcorn because the toxin’s danger was “knowable in light of generally recognized and prevailing best scientific and medical knowledge available.” Therefore, the defendant should have warned against the potential risks of the popcorn.

Do you think this award was commensurate to the damages he suffered? Should a manufacturer have to pay $5 million as punishment for not warning consumers about the potential risk of consuming their product when that product can effectively take away one of your lungs?