If you’re a smoker, you’re putting your lungs in danger with every puff. A burning cigarette generates more than 7,000 harmful chemicals, which weaken your lung tissue, lower your ability to fight off infection, narrow your airways, and inflame and destroy your air sacs.
Our board-certified team here at California Lung Associates in downtown Los Angeles sees the effects of cigarette smoking everyday, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of the primary health concerns. When you have COPD, your airways become damaged and blocked, making breathing extremely difficult.
Up to 90% of all COPD cases are caused by cigarette smoking, so not smoking is the best way to avoid COPD; but even nonsmokers can get it. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the top five risk factors for COPD, so you can assess your environment and lifestyle and make some life-saving adjustments.
1. Indoor and outdoor air pollution
Everything in the air you breathe enters your lungs, so if it’s anything but pure, clean oxygen, it could cause COPD. In Los Angeles, the air quality has improved greatly over the last few decades, but there’s still a lot of bad stuff in the air you breathe here in Southern California.
According to the California Air Resources Board, more than 9,000 people die in this state every year due to particulate air pollution.
Outdoor air pollution contains ozone, particulate matter, lead, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, and nitrogen oxides, but the indoor air isn’t much better.
Whether you spend most of your day at home or in your office, you could be breathing in harmful doses of radon, combustible pollutants from furnaces and heaters, biological pollutants like pollen and pet dander, and asbestos.
2. Second- and thirdhand smoke
Living or working with a smoker can be just as harmful as if you were a chain smoker. The same chemicals inhaled by the smoker make their way into your lungs as well — this is called secondhand smoke.
But just because the smoker leaves the room or the building doesn’t mean the danger leaves with them. The residue of those harmful chemicals stick to the walls and other surfaces in your house, car, or office. Not only can exposure to thirdhand smoke lead to long-term health issues, it can also damage your DNA.
3. Workplace chemicals
Your job might put you at risk from COPD if you work with hazardous chemicals. As many as 31% of all COPD cases occur among nonsmokers, and many of those stem from dangerous occupational environments. Any job that exposes you to harmful chemicals puts you at risk, including:
- Automotive repair
- House cleaning/maid work
- Janitorial work
- Construction and painting
Pesticides, dust, gasses, and fumes can all irritate your lungs and lead to damage and COPD.
4. Childhood respiratory infections
If you suffered from respiratory illnesses as a child, you’re more likely to develop COPD as an adult — in fact, 75% more likely. Childhood illnesses, including pneumonia, allergic rhinitis, asthma, bronchitis, and even eczema, are all linked to a higher incidence of adult COPD.
Scientists believe that these conditions affect lung development and make you more susceptible to COPD later in life.
5. Alpha-1 deficiency
Ideally, your body produces a protein called Alpha-1 that protects your lungs. However, some people don’t produce enough and develop a rare condition called Alpha-1 deficiency-related emphysema, a type of COPD. This deficiency is typically a genetic condition.
If you have any of the risk factors for COPD, schedule an appointment with one of our expert pulmonary specialists. We can assess your current health and help you mitigate your risk factors. We also offer several treatments that can open your airways and help you breathe more freely. Call us at 213-441-0156 today.