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Dear Abby 12/04

Office popcorn fragrance causes some to swoon

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Posted: December 5, 2007 2:26 p.m.
Updated: December 20, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    DEAR ABBY: I laughed out loud when I read the letter from “Believes in Decorum, Eugene, Ore.” (Oct. 15), whose office reeked of popcorn.
    I work for a theater company that shares office space with two sister companies and an investment firm. All are owned by the same family. Several times a month someone will make popcorn, and yes, the smell travels throughout the building. Co-workers often stop in the break room exclaiming, “Oh! Who made popcorn?!” You’d be surprised at how many visitors ask if they can have some. It’s a great icebreaker.
    On a side note, if the smell is offensive to some, why not compromise and buy pre-popped popcorn? — LOVES POPCORN IN DALLAS
    DEAR LOVES POPCORN: That’s not a bad suggestion. Frankly, I was surprised at the number of readers who “popped off” on this subject — most of whom thought my answer stunk. And I must admit, there are kernels of wisdom in their responses:
    DEAR ABBY: Those of us who are allergic to corn or other ingredients in microwave popcorn most certainly DO object to popcorn fumes. They make us deathly ill! I avoid any business that pops popcorn, or I risk a severe allergic reaction, which can include anaphylaxis among other serious symptoms. The office manager in that office is right to put a stop to microwave popcorn. It’s not safe for everyone. — DONNIE IN CONCORD, MICH.
    DEAR ABBY: I am a lawyer. I agree with the office manager. The chemical smell of microwave popcorn is nauseating and, indeed, unprofessional. Recent stories in the media have revealed that the fake butter chemicals (diacetyl) can cause cancers in factory workers who produce it.
    Also, this is a smell commonly associated with casual entertainment venues such as movie theaters, county fairs, and nights at home in front of the television.
    It is not appropriate for a law firm unless the office is large enough and has a sophisticated air filtration system so the odor can be confined to a back room. — ANN ARBOR LAWYER
    DEAR ABBY: The smell of nuked popcorn makes my throat itch and my eyes water. There is supporting evidence that the fumes may be hazardous to your health.
    May I suggest an alternative? Switch to something healthy like granola bars or herbal teas, and perhaps adopt a general attitude adjustment. — GLENN, ALEXANDRIA, VA.
    DEAR ABBY: The woman who was concerned about the popcorn smell in their office needs to know that the odor may be the least of her problem. In many public offices and buildings, it’s against the fire code to microwave popcorn. The bags catch fire easily because the fat inside generates a lot of heat while cooking the kernels, and they can go from “pop” to “black” in only a couple of seconds. Many fires have started this way.
    “Believes” should investigate what the regulations are in her area. She may have a valid reason to ask “Suzy” to switch snacks. — CATIE B., WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIF.
    DEAR ABBY: If I was entering the law firm where “Believes” works, smelling popcorn would immediately put me at ease. My first-grade teacher always made popcorn for her students during the first snowfall. It was a treat. To this day when it snows, no matter where I am, I swear I smell popcorn. Thanks to Mrs. Rodgers for creating a memory that has lasted more than 35 years. — BECKY FROM CONNECTICUT
    TO MY JEWISH READERS: The eight days of Hanukkah begin at sundown. I can’t believe how early it has fallen this year. Allow me to wish all of you a happy Festival of Lights!
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