Can dirty indoor air hurt your lungs?

“This study reminds us that environmental pollutants we inhale each day are triggers that advance our lung age and increase our risk for COPD,” says Dr. Senora Nelson, who practices family medicine at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “In addition to nicotine use, second-hand smoke exposure as well as environmental air pollutants can increase ones risk of lung disease.”

A recent study published in the European Respiratory Journal concluded that everyday pollutants found in your home could lead to accelerated lung aging, reduced lung function, and increased risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD is a group of progressive lung diseases, all characterized by breathlessness. This group of incurable diseases includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and non-reversible asthma. When diagnosed and treated early, many people are able to manage their condition and enjoy life.

Mold, pollen, household products and building materials such as asbestos, formaldehyde and lead can cause breathing discomfort, respiratory diseases and lung cancer. Dr. Nelson suggests taking precautions when these pollutants are in your environment and using air purifiers with clean filters in your home to reduce indoor pollution.

Although more research is needed to establish a definitive link between COPD, decreased lung function and ambient air pollution, Dr. Nelson recommends periodic pulmonary function tests and pulmonary consult evaluations to detect or assess any occurring lung damage early.

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