HSE: scientists develop sensitive method to measure worker diacetyl exposures

HSE’s Workplace Health Expert Committee (WHEC) is a scientific and medical expert committee whose purpose is to consider the evidence linking workplace hazards to ill health. Working under the leadership of an independent expert Chair, it considers chemical and physical hazards, and human, behavioral or organizational factors in the workplace (for example shift work) leading to physiological and psychological ill health.

HSE scientists have developed a new sensitive method for measurement of diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione. This is an important step to support action to protect workers’ health.

Occupational levels of diacetyl exposure have been linked with the lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans which is life threatening and irreversible.

Diacetyl, also known as 2,3-butanedione, and the closely related chemical 2,3-pentanedione, are naturally occurring substances with a characteristic butter-like odor found in foods such as dairy products, beer and fruits. Diacetyl is also added to various food products as artificial butter flavoring and both substances are present in emissions generated by coffee roasting and grinding.

In Great Britain, occupational exposure limits to protect workers’ health are based on recommendations from SCOEL (the European Commission Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits). SCOEL has recommended introducing an 8-hour time weighted average occupational exposure limit for diacetyl of 20 ppb and a short-term exposure limit (STEL) of 100 ppb.

However, existing scientific measurement methods have lacked the necessary sensitivity to measure these levels of exposure. Follow the link below for more information.


Contact: Ian Pengelly, HSE (ian.pengelly@hse.gov.uk)

More information: www.hse.gov.uk

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