7 Things That Could Be Destroying Your Lungs

Lung disease is very common. In fact, roughly 1 billion people around the world are currently suffering from an acute or chronic respiratory condition. Such respiratory conditions can be fatal. In fact, respiratory diseases are the third biggest killer beyond heart disease and cancer.

Some respiratory conditions are genetic. The majority however are directly caused by breathing in unclean air. Certain contaminants can irritate the inside of the lungs, while others can cause infections. Below are just some of the most common things that could be damaging your lungs. 

Unsurprisingly, smoking is the most common cause of respiratory health problems. Cigarettes are full of toxins ranging from benzene to arsenic. These toxins slowly break down the alveoli (the air sacs) on the inside of the lungs through which the body absorbs oxygen. The longer and more regularly you smoke, the greater the damage to the alveoli. As a result, the lungs have to work harder to take in the amount of oxygen needed for the body.

Quitting smoking is the obvious solution to this. Not only can this reduce damage to your lungs, but your lungs will start to heal afterwards. In fact, most ex-smokers experience noticeable improvements in breathing a year after quitting. There are lots of different ways to quit smoking nowadays from hypnosis to nicotine patches.

It's important to note that while tobacco cigarettes are the worst culprit for lung damage, smoking other substances like marijuana can also cause irritation. If you want to protect your lungs, it's better to not smoke anything – edibles such as these delta-8 edibles could be a better choice if you want to access the health benefits of CBD without damaging your lungs.

Second-hand smoke can also be harmful so also be careful of hanging around other people smoking. If you live with people who smoke, consider asking them to smoke outside.

Too much dust can be bad for the lungs too. This is particularly the case with building dust and flour, which could lung diseases such as silicosis and baker's lung. Household dust can meanwhile cause asthmatic symptoms in some people (this often the result of an allergy to dust mites). Then of course there contaminants like pollen and pet dander that can also cause allergies.

If you're working in a very dusty environment, it's best to wear a mask. As for dust in the home, this can be reduced by keeping on top of cleaning and by ventilating your home. Air purifiers can help to remove dust from the air and could be another way of eliminating dust. Older homes are likely to be more prone to dust.

Asbestos is a material that was once commonly used in the construction of buildings. It was heralded for its insulating and fire-proof qualities – however, in recent years it has been found to be a major health hazard. If asbestos is disturbed, tiny flakes can be dispersed into the air and breathed in. These small flakes can severely irritate the inside of the lungs and are known to cause a lung cancer called mesothelioma. 

If you suspect that your home or workplace contains asbestos, it could be a good idea to get it professionally removed. Asbestos is generally safe until it is disturbed – however this could be something as small as drilling a hole in a wall or weather-damage to an asbestos roof. There are guides that help you to identify asbestos in your home.

Radon is an invisible and odorless gas that naturally seeps out of the ground. Long-term exposure to high levels of radon can lead to lung cancer.

Some areas naturally have higher levels of radon. In these areas, it's important to keep your home well ventilated and to make sure that your foundations are well sealed. Radon poisoning is often the result of radon leaking in through a cracked basement and then building up within a property due to a lack of ventilation. By opening windows and by using extractor fans you can keep your home ventilated and reduce the risk of radon poisoning. There are radon test kits that you can buy to measure radon levels in your home and radon maps that can tell you if you're in a high risk area. 

Mold is a fungus that commonly grows in dark, warm and damp places. In areas where there is a lot of mold growth, you could be at risk of breathing in mold spores and developing aspergillosis. This is a condition where mold starts to grow inside the lungs.

If you notice mold growing in your home, you should try to get rid of it as soon as possible. There are lots of effective anti-mold sprays that you can use. Once the mold is gone, try to prevent it from growing back by making sure that your home isn't too stuffy or damp. Mold is less likely to grow in a home that is well-ventilated. You can also stop mold growing by eliminating sources of excess moistures such as fixing water leaks and using a dehumidifier. 

VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are pollutants made of various chemicals which can cause damage to the inside of the lungs. VOCs can be given off by road vehicles and by various chemical products including air fresheners and paints. Exposure to small amounts of VOCs is generally not harmful, however exposure to large amounts could increase the risk of developing diseases like lung cancer.

It can be very difficult to avoid all VOCs. However, it's possible to make efforts to use less chemicals around the home or to use an air purifier. When it comes to products like paint, there are often low-VOC and no VOC-options that you can use. Look out for these types of products.

Lung diseases can also be caused by bacteria and viruses. Coronavirus is the most recent example of a deadly virus that affects the lungs. Diseases such as the flu can also be just as deadly, often leading to pneumonia in older people.

You can limit exposure to bacteria and viruses by washing your hands and by taking vaccines where possible. Such vaccines are particularly worthwhile if you are older and more at risk – most local GPs will offer an annual flu jab that is worth taking. Finding ways to boost your immune system can also help you to fight off diseases and prevent more dangerous lung infections. If you exercise regularly, you're more likely to fight off airborne diseases – exercises helps to clear out dirty air from the lungs, while increasing production of white blood cells. A healthy diet can also help you to keep up a strong immune system – this includes eating lots of fruit and vegetables (the vitamins in these foods are essential for the immune system).

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