On September 25, organizations across the nation will celebrate the latest achievements in lung health in recognition of World Lung Day. But it's impossible to breathe easy knowing how many things still need to be done to achieve healthy air and create a world free of lung disease. Established by The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), World Lung Day is a time for us all to take a hard look at what we can do, individually and as a society, to work toward clean air and healthy lungs for all.
Breathing is essential to life, and lung health impacts every part of the body. Despite our efforts, 1.6 million people still die from lung cancer each year, making it the number one cancer killer in the U.S. Other lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which kills 3 million people each year, is the fourth leading cause of death nationwide. Additionally, 1 in 13 people suffer from asthma according to the CDC, meaning that more than 25 million Americans struggle every day to breathe because of the disease.
Fortunately, most respiratory diseases are preventable. But it is up to us to be vigilant. There are many contributing risk factors that contribute to the dangers hanging in the air.
Once you step outside, many pollutants emitted into the air worsen and raise your risk of developing lung disease. The air you breathe outdoors is generally cleaner than it was a few decades ago, but too much dangerous pollution remains. As the 2019 "State of the Air" report showed, this is especially true for the two most widespread pollutants, ozone and particle pollution. Additionally, harmful emissions still come from burning coal, natural gas, oil, wood and other natural substances used to heat, cool and power homes and buildings. Most vehicles and equipment used to move people or goods contribute to air pollution. Many of these also produce emissions, like carbon dioxide and methane, that add to the broad health threats from climate change. As climate change worsens, the increase in natural disasters, like wildfires and hurricanes, can cause additional harms to lung health.
So how can we protect ourselves and our loved ones?
The American Lung Association believes it is up to us to make a change. We've declared 2019 the Year of Air Pollution & Health, and each month, we are highlighting an area that remains an obstacle to healthy air and asking supporters to join in the fight to #BeatAirPollution by engaging on social media and taking action.
We urge everyone to make a few simple changes to help us advocate for #HealthyAirForAll.
- Walk, bike or carpool. Use buses, subways, light rail systems, commuter trains or other alternatives to driving your car to help reduce air pollution from vehicles.
- Most electricity generated creates air pollution, so reduce energy use. Check out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's easy tips for conserving energy at home.
- Use hand-powered or electric lawn care equipment rather than gasoline-powered. Old two-stroke engines like lawnmowers and leaf or snow blowers often have no pollution control devices.
- Don't burn wood or trash. Burning firewood and trash is a major source of particle pollution (soot) in many parts of the country.
Most importantly, get involved. Our leaders must continue working to reduce air pollution and to protect our health from the impacts of climate change, which can worsen air quality. Sign the petition and share your story.
Blog last updated: March 2, 2020