For some, the month of November is synonymous with Thanksgiving and Autumn festivities. For others, November is synonymous with lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) awareness. Why? During the month of November, patients and their families, healthcare professionals and the general public raise awareness about these conditions. This is important, as lung cancer and COPD are very destructive diseases that make everyday life difficult for many people. Also important, the role air quality plays in respiratory health, and the subsequent lung health-lung cancer-COPD relationship.
Lung Cancer Awareness Month
Lung Cancer Awareness Month provides the general public with the opportunity to learn about the disease, risk factors and treatments available. According to the American Association for Cancer Research, lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the world. In the United States, approximately 142,000 people die from lung cancer each year. Smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer. Cigarette smoke contains more than 8,000 compounds, including but not limited to carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde, acrolein and benzene. Other causes include exposure to secondhand smoke and a family history of lung cancer.
COPD Awareness Month
COPD Awareness Month promotes a better understanding of the disease in order to increase early diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately, this preventable disease is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, affecting more than 15 million people. Approximately 150,000 Americans die from COPD each year—that’s one death every four minutes. Similar to lung cancer, smoking is the primary cause of COPD. However, 1 in 4 people with COPD have never smoked. Other prominent causes include exposure to secondhand smoke, genetic factors, respiratory infections and exposure to air pollutants. Most people believe that the name COPD refers to just one disease, however, it refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related issues. COPD includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis and occasionally asthma.
World COPD Day 2021
In 2002, the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), in collaboration with healthcare professionals and COPD patient groups, established World COPD Day. The purpose of World COPD Day is to raise awareness, plain and simple. This year’s theme is “Healthy Lungs—Never More Important.” Prior to World COPD Day, GOLD distributes materials and resources to participating countries so that they may organize events. On November 17, consider joining the fight against COPD by taking part in local activities organized by healthcare professionals, educators and the general public.
How Does Air Quality Affect Lung Health?
Humans breathe approximately 22,000 times each day. When air is inhaled, it travels to the lungs, inflating them. When contaminated air is inhaled, it negatively impacts lung health.
Air quality is reduced when contaminants such as ozone, radon and particulate matter are released into the air. For example, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are one pollutant that’s released into the air when smoking cigarettes. Smokers directly inhale VOCs. Those nearby indirectly inhale VOCs—AKA secondhand smoke. VOCs cause lower and upper respiratory symptoms and exacerbate asthma symptoms. Moreover, the VOCs in cigarette smoke contribute to the risk of lung cancer and COPD.
That being said, air quality, particularly indoor air quality, should be front and center when discussing lung-related diseases. After all, lung health is critical for lung cancer, COPD and related diseases. And preventative steps to ensure good respiratory health, like IAQ intervention, are beyond worth it.
IAQ—Never More Important
Believe it or not, prioritizing indoor air quality can help prevent diseases such as lung cancer and COPD. Purification, filtration, ventilation and humidity control are excellent methods of protection against contaminants. Removing indoor air pollutants and monitoring the devices that produce them are two key components of good indoor air quality and, as a result, lung health. Investing in indoor air quality has never been more important than now!