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Air Quality from a User’s Standpoint

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This is a guest blog post from Jim Nelson, an individual living with COPD.

Prior to the major miracle of a lung transplant, I had emphysema and chronic bronchitis, also known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD. That means that my lung capacity was only a fraction of what it should have been, given my age, weight, etc. The measure of lung function is a major factor in the diagnosis of COPD. I should have been able to expel about three liters of air in a second. My tests revealed that I was only blowing out about 6/10 of liter, or 21% of normal.

“Jim It also meant that my respiratory system was super-sensitive to air pollution in any form. That included things such as particulate matter–dust, carbon monoxide, and ground level ozone. Ozone at ground level can be a very bad thing, especially for those of us who have enough trouble breathing without any outside interference! Sunlight and hot weather combine with auto exhaust, gasoline vapors, industrial emissions, and chemical solvents to form harmful levels of ozone.

Many urban areas tend to have high levels of “bad” ozone, but even rural areas are subject to increased ozone levels because wind carries ozone and the pollutants that form it hundreds of miles away from their original sources. As our population ages and the effects of tobacco use damage more and more lungs, it will become even more important to concentrate on improving the quality of our air.

Despite our best efforts, bad air will tend to find us. We owe it to ourselves to shy away from smokers, to stay indoors on bad air days, to wear a surgical mask if we are exposed to pollutants. Roll up the car windows and use the air conditioner if the outside air is loaded with dust or smog. If you are exposed to dust or pollen or the like, a shower before bed is a good idea.

What advice can you offer to others living with COPD when it comes to managing bad air quality? What are some things you do?

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  • I have been diagnosed with stage 4 COPD and am currently on oxygen 24/7. I do most of what was already mentioned but didn't know all that was mentioned is true. I do what I can to protect myself but if I have to live my life always on the look out for things like bad ozone and watch special weather reports to see if it's safe for me to go out or not then that is exchanging one problem for another. It might help your lungs by not going out today because of what might be in the air but at the same time it might do great harm to your mind. I.E. I had my heart set on this event today, been looking forward to it for 10 years and now I can't go. It can ad to Depression, it can hurt your feelings, it can do damages in other ways that your lungs don't do. So what am I trying to say. Yes, watch out for everything that was mentioned, also make sure you have back up oxygen, cover your mouth when coughing, try not to shake hands, and wash yours more often but don't let it get you to the point where that's all you live for. To me COPD comes with many hidden not so comfortable surprises as well as poor lung function, you must find that FINE LINE to keep yourself running in the best way that you know how. Thank you for listening. >Hack< COPD foundation web page.
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  • Such an excellent article Jim. I really can't think of a thing to add to it. We must all support the environmental movement. We must respect our planet, our home. Clean air is crucial.

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