Wayne Watson, courtesy ABC News"I probably look like a fairly healthy guy, but I only have, on a good day, about 53 percent lung capacity," Wayne Watson tells ABC News
. On Wednesday, a jury awarded the 59-year-old Denver native $7.2 million in damages
against Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation, The Kroger Company, and Dillon Companies Incorporated because of a disease he allegedly contracted from his favorite snack, microwave popcorn.
Read more: Scariest Food Additives
'Popcorn lung' is the informal name for bronchiolitis obliterans
, an ailment usually associated with factory workers who inhale high levels of diacetyl
, the chemical used in artificial butter flavorings. Symptoms include wheezing, dry cough, fatigue, and shortness of breath. The condition can require a lung transplant or even be fatal. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
reports that lung biopsies of sick workers from plants that produce microwave popcorn show scarring of the bronchioles, the smallest airways in the lung, which restricts breathing. It recommends that factory workers handling artificial flavorings take precautions
such as wearing respirators, keeping chemical containers tightly sealed, and getting regular breathing tests. A June 2012 study in the journal of Chemical Research and Toxicology
also linked diacetyl to Alzheimer's.