Natural Disasters, Pollution and How they Affect COPD

You've taken steps to quit smoking and are working on other areas of your health now that you've been diagnosed with COPD. Despite all of your efforts for staying healthy and avoiding harmful things, you still seem to be getting worse and have frequent, severe exacerbations.

It's true that some of the things that can have a significant effect on our lungs aren't things we have direct control over. We can wash our hands and get vaccines to prevent illness, avoid allergies and take medications, but it can be nearly impossible to avoid what is already in the air around us.

Pollution, whether man-made or natural, can have serious adverse effects on our lungs. People who have a chronic lung disease like COPD or asthma will feel the effects more than anyone since the lungs are more sensitive. BioMed Central, a medical journal and article publisher, conducted a study that says forest fires are having a significant impact on people with COPD, especially. They based the findings on reports from pharmacies filling more prescriptions than usually in areas that were close to where there were recent forest fires.

It's almost as if everyone in a close radius to where the forest fires took place are all essentially “smoking” every time they took a breath outdoors. Forest fires can be caused by people, or by a combination of people starting small fires and the dryness of the woods and plants because of a drought.

There can also be an issue if you live near an active volcano. Active volcanoes will throw soot into the air with particles that are small enough to inhale. The soot from a volcano can come down to earth quickly, or spend some time up in the atmosphere first.

Arid climates can also be dangerous. A flat area with little vegetation can see a dust storm after a, particularly severe drought. If you live in an area like this, or where the air is scorching and dangerous in general, you should try to stay inside with air conditioning as much as possible use a humidifier. For example, areas of southern Arizona are known to be dangerous for people with sensitive lungs.

While smoking accounts for 80% of the cases of COPD, the other 20% is caused by living near an area with inferior air quality. So, what can you do if you live in an area with high pollution? If you use an oxygen concentrator, you will need to clean the filter thoroughly once a week and have it replaced every 6 months or less, depending on the severity of the pollution in your area.

You might also give serious consideration to moving to an area with better air quality. Keep in mind that just because an area is away from the city, it might not necessarily have less pollution. Pay attention to the air quality advisory for a specific area through weather reports.

Information on this page is for reference and educational purposes only. For more information about COPD, talk to your doctor or primary care provider.

Page last updated: October 24, 2018


About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

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