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Liquid Nicotine Class Action Lawsuit Filed Over Use of Chemical Linked To “Popcorn Lung”

  • Written by: Irvin Jackson

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A class action lawsuit filed against a manufacturer of liquid nicotine used in electronic cigarettes indicates that the solution contains a number of potentially harmful chemicals, including diacetyl, which can cause severe lung damage and other health problems. 

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Jennifer Cox last month in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, naming Cuttwood, LLC, Molecule Labs, Inc. Jared Unger, Michael Guasch, Art Chambers, William Ruiz and a number of other unnamed individuals as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, Cuttwood’s brand of “E-Juice” liquid nicotine products, also known as e-liquids, contain hazardous chemicals, including diacetyl (DA) and acetyl propionyl (AP).

The case seeks class action status, to present claims on behalf of all users of the company’s liquid nicotine products, claiming that certain flavors have the highest concentrations of these two chemicals seen in any liquid nicotine product.

A recent study presented at a conference of the American College of Chest Physicians warned that e-cigarettes often use liquid nicotine that includes diacetyl, which has been previously linked to a severe respiratory ailment known as bronchiolitis obliterans, or “popcorn lung” disease, since the condition has previously been seen among microwave popcorn factory workers exposed to high levels of the chemical.

The condition is characterized by the scarring and inflammation of small airways that lead to diminished lung capacity and breathing problems. The disease is irreversible and severe cases may require lung transplants or lead to death.

The lawsuit also states that both chemicals have been linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema, indicating that a number of tests conducted on the company’s E-Juice products have shown detectable amounts of diacetyl and acetyl propionyl.

“Defendants do not warn its customers about the dangers of inhaling DA and AP, neither on its product packaging nor on its website,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, Defendants’ marketing campaign describe its e-liquids as if it were selling wine.”

The lawsuit seeks to prevent the company from continuing with alleged misleading advertising, correct its deceptive and misleading advertising, and “secure redress for consumers who have purchased one or more of Defendants’ e-liquids.”

A recent evaluation of 159 sweet nicotine flavorings found diacetyl 2,3-butanedione in 69 percent of the samples. At least one sample from 92% of all manufacturers contained the harmful chemical which is inhaled when users smoke it in e-cigarettes.

In a recent warning to workers in the coffee industry, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that popcorn lung is often misdiagnosed, highlighting the importance of coffee warning users to be aware of the potential symptoms.

“Sometimes workers with obliterative bronchiolitis are initially misdiagnosed with asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or pneumonia; or their symptoms are attributed to smoking,” the CDC warned. “It is important to consider the possibility of flavoring chemical-related lung disease in workers who have been exposed to diacetyl or similar flavoring chemicals (such as 2,3-pentanedione) and have respiratory symptoms. In cases of flavoring chemical-related lung disease, respiratory symptoms do not typically improve when the worker goes home at the end of the workday, on weekends, or on vacations. The symptoms often have a gradual onset but can occur suddenly.”

In recent years, several hundred popcorn lung lawsuits have been filed on behalf of individuals exposed to high levels of diacetyl while working in microwave popcorn manufacturing or flavoring factories.

Cox’s liquid nicotine lawsuit charges the defendants with violating California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act, the state’s unfair competition and deceptive advertising laws, and breach of express warranty.

The e-cigarette business has grown to a more than $2 billion industry, with more than 450 brands and nearly 8,000 different flavors, most of which are designed to appeal to teens and young adults, potentially leading to a new generation of nicotine users who would not otherwise smoke cigarettes.

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