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Impact of smoking and air pollution on COPD

Published on
 September 30, 2016


There is no denying the fact that the world we live in today is marred with air pollution. Whether it is outdoor or indoor, we are battling air pollution at all levels. According to WHO, tobacco consumption in the form of smoking is the biggest contributor of COPD in humans, whether it active or passive smoking. Smoking includes cigarettes, pipes, and cigars and the fumes from these affect even non-smokers.

Cigarettes are made of toxic chemicals that directly alter the functionality of the lungs. When their smoke is inhaled for a significant period of time, it can lead to severe irritation in the lungs, which triggers COPD. The lungs continue to get damaged over a period of life as tobacco smoking leads to degradation and inflammation.

Air pollution of all kinds is also detrimental to the lung functioning and a major contributor to COPD. It causes a progressive inflammation of the airways, lung parenchyma, and pulmonary vessels. The burning of wood and other biomass materials also contribute to indoor air pollution leading to COPD.

In both kinds of pollution (cigarette and air), when we breathe, the smoke travels through the windpipe into the bronchial tubes. The bronchioles have air sacs called alveoli, and it has capillaries. When we breathe in, oxygen is transported from alveoli to capillaries which then get circulated in our body. Similarly, capillaries transport back carbon dioxide to alveoli which then gets removed from our body. Smoking and air pollution progressively but drastically affect this body mechanism of ours.

It is the elasticity of these air sacs that facilitate smooth flow of air into and out of our lungs. Air pollution and smoking drastically alter the characteristics of these body parts. The air sacs become stiff, and the deterioration of the walls begins. The airway walls thicken with time and get inflamed. Additionally, the mucus production along the airways increases effectively obstruction the air flow.

COPD cannot be reversed and there is no cure for it. But, you can delay its progression. If you are a smoker, you can start by quitting it in your fight against COPD. Even if you don’t smoke, you may still be passively inhaling smoke and air pollution. It is important that you avoid polluted environments. You can have a healthy diet and an exercise regime to live a healthy lifestyle.

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