What are environmental lung diseases?
Environmental lung diseases are illnesses caused by harmful particles, mists, vapors, or gases in the air that you breathe.
Some people get ill from the air outside (air pollution-related illness Air Pollution-Related Illness Air pollution-related illness is a medical problem caused or made worse by air pollution. It is one type of environmental lung disease. Air pollution can affect anyone, but children are more... read more ). Other people get sick from air they breathe in buildings where they live, work, or go to school (building-related illness Building-Related Illnesses Building-related illnesses are disorders that affect the lungs as well as other parts of the body and are caused by exposure to substances within modern airtight buildings. Building-related... read more ).
Most people with an environmental lung disease got it from something at work. For example:
People who work around asbestos can get asbestosis Asbestosis Asbestos is a mineral fiber used in construction materials. Asbestosis is scarring of your lungs caused by breathing in asbestos dust. Most people have a very low chance of getting asbestosis... read more , mesothelioma Mesothelioma Mesothelioma is cancer of the thin, transparent, two-layered membrane that covers and lines the inside of the chest wall and abdomen. The most common symptoms are persistent chest pain and shortness... read more , and asbestos-related pleural disease Asbestos-Related Pleural Disease Asbestos is a family of naturally occurring compounds whose heat-resistant and structural properties made it useful for inclusion in construction and shipbuilding materials, automobile brakes... read more
If you already have a lung disease such as COPD Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) COPD is a disease in your lungs that makes it hard to breathe. It's hard to push air out of your lungs. Difficulty pushing air out is called chronic airflow obstruction. Smoking cigarettes is... read more (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or asthma Asthma Asthma is a condition in which the breathing passages (airways) in your lungs get narrow. When the airways are narrow, it's hard to breathe. Breathing often makes a squeaky sound called wheezing... read more , things you breathe in can trigger an attack.
What are the symptoms of environmental lung diseases?
The symptoms of environmental lung disease are like those of many lung disorders:
How can doctors tell if I have an environmental lung disease?
Doctors will ask whether your symptoms come on only in certain places and times. They will ask about your work and what substances may be in the air. Doctors may do:
Imaging tests such as chest x-ray Plain X-Rays A plain x-ray is an imaging test that takes a picture of the inside of your body. It uses a low dose of x-ray radiation. X-rays show body parts according to how dense (solid) they are. Doctors... read more or CT (computed tomography) scan Computed Tomography A CT scan uses a large machine shaped like a large donut to take x-rays from many angles. A computer then takes the x-rays and creates many detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Each... read more
How can I prevent environmental lung diseases?
If you have air pollution at work, follow guidelines from government agencies to limit the gases, dust, and fumes you breathe.
See your doctor regularly for screenings to check for lung problems, if you are exposed to harmful air pollution or other substances.