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Quick Facts

Overview of Environmental Lung Diseases


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Mar 2021| Content last modified Mar 2021
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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). Other people get sick from air they breathe in buildings where they live, work, or go to school (building-related illness).

Most people with an environmental lung disease got it from something at work. For example:

If you already have a lung disease such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or asthma, 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:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Cough

  • Chest pain

  • Sudden wheezing

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:

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.

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