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You Are What You Breathe: Ways to Avoid Lung Toxins

March 5, 2020
Published in: Pulmonology

Doctor listening to a patient's lungs

A healthy person's lungs automatically provide tens of thousands of breaths a day that assist with everything from sleep to physical exertion. Healthy lungs can't be taken for granted. Millions of people around the world suffer from chronic lung conditions such as asthma. In fact, asthma is estimated to impact 235 million people from across the globe.

Toxins are a major contributor to declining lung health and lung disease. Toxins in our environment, home, and workplace can impact our lungs. Products we buy and habits we have can also expose us to toxins. We're identifying common causes of lung toxins and what you can do to avoid them.

Up in Smoke

close-up of man smokingThe number one action you can take to prevent lung disease is to stop smoking. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 34.3 million adults are smokers, and more than 16 million Americans have a smoking-related illness. Augusta Health offers a smoking cessation program called Get Independence From Tobacco (G.I.F.T.) that may help you quit smoking for good.

If you're around people that smoke, you should also beware. Exposure to second-hand smoke by being in the presence of a smoker can lead to the same lung diseases as if you smoked. Research has also identified that third-hand smoke exposure from tobacco fumes on walls and furniture. Avoid being around people that are smoking, and ask that people don't smoke in your home or your car. Cleaning carpets and couches and painting walls with low VOC paint can help with third-hand smoke exposure.

Household Hazards

Woman holding cleaning suppliesYour home should be your sanctuary, but lung toxins can be lurking in places you might not expect. To create an environment that's lung friendly, consider taking the following steps:

  • Switch from a wood burning fireplace to a cleaner burning gas fireplace. Particles in a wood burning fireplace can pose a risk to your lungs. If you do use a wood burning fireplace, make sure it's thoroughly cleaned and inspected regularly.
  • Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the ground. In your home, workplace, or other confined spaces, radon can reach deadly levels. In fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Radon test kits are available and could potentially save your life.
  • Mold comes in many forms and causes severe, even deadly reactions. It's important to visually inspect your home for any signs of mold. Mold tends to grow in dark, damp places like basements. However, mold can exist and not be visible. Keeping your heating, ventilating, and air conditioning filters changed and removing any standing water or dampness can help prevent mold growth. If you suspect you have mold exposure, seek medical attention. Testing kits and home inspections can help you identify if mold exists.
  • According to the Mayo Clinic, people that use cleaning products regularly have decreased lung health over time versus those that do not use cleaning products regularly. To avoid harmful fumes from cleaning products, always wear a face mask and gloves when cleaning. Most household cleaning can be accomplished using natural DIY cleaners.

In the Air

Air pollution can result in a decline in lung health. To protect yourself from air pollution, follow these guidelines:

  • Be in the know, and check air pollution reports for your area by visiting
  • If air pollution is high, limit your time outdoors.
  • Never run or exercise near high traffic areas to avoid inhaling exhaust fumes.
  • Don't burn trash. Not only does this contribute to air pollution, but it's also harmful to your respiratory system.

August Health offers Lung Cancer Screenings. These lifesaving screenings can help detect cancer early, one of the key components for successful treatment. Contact your primary care provider if you would like to be screened.