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This information was reviewed and approved by Russell P. Bowler, MD, PhD, Irina Petrache, MD (2/28/2021).

One way to minimize your COPD symptoms is to avoid or reduce environmental factors that cause more symptoms.

COPD and air pollution are closely related, as are COPD and secondhand smoke.

Outdoor Air Pollution: Air pollution is a known factor in both causing and exacerbating the symptoms of COPD. Examples of outdoor pollutants include ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and Sulphur dioxide – and those are just a few of the most comment. They come from industrial production, forest and brush fires and garbage burning, just to cite a few sources. Common adverse health effects of air pollution are increased irritation of the respiratory tract, chronic cough, chest tightness, decreased pulmonary function and increased vulnerability to allergens and other immune system challenges. Many cities and regions report air pollution levels — watch for them, and avoid the outdoors when pollution levels are high.

Secondhand Smoke: Secondhand smoke is the smoke that is breathed out by a smoker or the smoke from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar. When you breathe in smoke from a smoker around you, this is called passive smoke. These both are strong respiratory irritants and can cause or worsen respiratory conditions like COPD. Avoid exposure to secondhand and passive smoke by encouraging others to avoid smoking in your home and car. You should also ask them not to smoke around you. Even better, encourage them to quit smoking. If you are a former smoker, tell them your firsthand story about how smoking has damaged your health.

Indoor Air Pollution: We spend approximately 80 percent of our time indoors. Therefore, it is important to look at sources within the home that may emit particulates, gases and fumes harmful to our health and which may cause COPD symptoms. In addition to secondhand smoke, indoor air pollution can come from radon gas and chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde emitted by contractor’s materials and furniture, aggravated by poor ventilation. And if you have windows open, outdoor air pollution can affect your indoor environment.

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