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Dangers of Microwave Popcorn

Dangers of Microwave Popcorn

When it’s movie night and you’re getting ready to break out the popcorn, using an air popper or jostling a pot of kernels in a heart-friendly oil on your stove top might be your best choices.

A report from the FDA indicates that a chemical coating used in microwave popcorn bags breaks down when heated into a substance called perfluorooctanoic (PFOA). The Environmental Protection Agency has identified PFOA as a “likely carcinogen.” Another study has found an acid that can be extracted from the chemical causes cancer in animals and is “likely to cause cancer in humans.”

A second potential danger in microwave popcorn is diacetyl, an FDA-approved chemical found in the fake butter flavoring. There’s even a debilitating respiratory disease called “popcorn workers lung,” (the medical name of the condition is bronchiolitis obliterans) suffered by microwave popcorn factory workers caused by extended inhalation of the chemical’s fumes. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, (NIOSH) concluded that diacetyl needs further study so that workers in the flavorings and snack industry are no longer at risk

The Food and Drug Administration continues to study whether consumers can develop lung disease from inhaling diacetyl. In response to the concerns regarding the risks of diacetyl exposure, a number of microwave popcorn manufacturers have discontinued using it in their products.

Pop Your Own
Here’s the way to make popcorn on your stove top: Pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil (or grapeseed oil if you prefer a more neutral taste) into a heavy, 3 quart or larger pan and place on medium high heat. Put two kernels in, and when one has popped, pour in 1/3 cup of pop corn (white or yellow) and cover pan. When corn begins to pop, shake constantly allowing steam to escape from popping kernels–otherwise popcorn will lose its crunch. Remove pan from heat immediately when popping stops or it will burn. Pour into a large bowl and season to taste.

Related Links:
6 Healthier Alternatives to Movie Popcorn
Bad News About Movie Popcorn

Read more: All recipes, Appetizers & Snacks, Food, Health, , ,

By Terri Hall Jackson, Care2 contributing writer

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Terri Hall

Terri Hall lives in the Hudson Valley with her family. In addition to writing, Terri works with public television and radio stations/networks in the area of new media, and leads workshops on authentic and empowered living.


+ add your own
3:43PM PDT on Apr 5, 2014

Clare M (How would I make butter popcorn on the stove? Add the butter when I add the oil ?) I melt the butter separately and then pour it over the popcorn when it's done popping. Gives you more butter flavor that way. Enjoy!

10:07AM PDT on Apr 5, 2014

How would I make butter popcorn on the stove? Add the butter when I add the oil ??

9:15PM PDT on Mar 23, 2014

So easy to make your own and much more fun to do with kidlets. And takes about the same amount of time.

6:58AM PDT on Sep 9, 2013

Microwaved food is generally unhealthy.

5:37PM PDT on Aug 5, 2013

air pop............

5:35PM PDT on Aug 5, 2013

I am going to get husband an air popper for his birthday. He has popcorn almost every evening! I will backup my reasons with the information I have learned here! Thanks all for the tips.

10:06AM PDT on Jun 25, 2013

everyone talking about the ease and quickness of microwave popcorn. Have you tried an air popper? Because it literally takes like 4-5 minutes to pop a big bowl of popcorn, and you can control what and how much you put on it. Lots of different options for flavors on top after.

7:31AM PST on Feb 6, 2013

Instead of using microwave popcorn I use the EZ Popcorn Maker from Viatek. The EZ Pop allows me to pop healthy jumbo popcorn without the dangerous chemical diacetyl. What's more, the EZ pop is manufactured with FDA food grade plastic which does not contain dyes or recycled plastics deemed harmful to humans. Not only is the EZ Pop a safer alternative, but a healthier alternative. Unlike microwave popcorn bags, the EZ Pop allows you to control the amount of butter and salt you use, eliminating extra calories and harmful chemicals. I got mine at:

9:30PM PST on Jan 8, 2013

Good info except that olive oil is not high or medium heat tolerant and should not be used. Grapeseed, canola, and safflower oils are safe at medium heat. Better yet, use an air popper!

8:38AM PDT on Sep 22, 2012

scary--especially when there was a separate danger of a chemical that was found to impact lung capacity (see lawsuit article)

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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