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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

Washington: Professor Receives State Grant to Study a Health Hazard for Coffee Workers

Dr. Christopher Simpson, professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington School of Public Health, was recently awarded $121,134 from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries’ Safety and Health Investment Project Grants Program. The award will fund and support a project to examine respiratory hazards for workers who make a living roasting, grinding, packaging and serving coffee.

Dr. Simpson and his research team will focus on a chemical called diacetyl, which is naturally produced in the coffee roasting process and may be found in some flavorings. While it poses no risk for consumers, extreme levels of airborne diacetyl may be linked to a rare and serious lung disease known as bronchiolitis obliterans.

“A number of recent studies have shown that workers in large commercial coffee production facilities are exposed to potentially hazardous levels of diacetyl, which can cause serious and irreversible lung damage,” Dr. Simpson said. “However, the levels of diacetyl present in smaller craft coffee processing facilities or coffee shops where coffee roasting, grinding and brewing take place are largely unknown.”

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