If you have been diagnosed with any of these diseases I advise you to look at information for all of them.  COPD was previously divided into emphysema and chronic bronchitis.  But emphysema is a description for lung changes that occur in COPD and chronic bronchitis is a description of symptoms that may or may not occur with COPD.  Your risks, treatment options and eventual outcome is pretty much the same in any case.

Tobacco is the leading cause of serious lung disease.  As a matter of fact it’s so far ahead of everything else that I’ve named it both cause #1 and cause #2 (second-hand smoke).  Since second-hand smoke is a form of air pollution it’s no surprise that air pollution other than this is the third leading cause of chronic bronchitis, emphysema and COPD.

In developing countries air pollution from cooking fires frequently leads to indoor air pollution and is seen as the most common cause of COPD.  These indoor fires are used as the main source of energy in 80% of homes in India, China and sub-Saharan Africa.

People who live in urban areas have a higher rate of COPD compared to those in rural areas.  Also people who live near areas of greater air pollution, (factories, gas exhaust) have higher levels of COPD than the general population.


If possible we can live in less polluted areas but this is not often a choice for most people. We may not have control as individuals over the air where we live, but we can exercise some control through  group effort to reduce emissions and improve air quality everywhere.

Besides outdoor pollution, many people are exposed to workplace dust, chemicals and fumes, which increase the risk of chronic bronchitis, emphysema and COPD.  A number of industries appear to be problematic including coal and gold mining, the cotton textile industry, occupations involving cadmium, isocyanates and fumes from welding.  In some professions the risks are estimated to be equivalent to that of smoking.  The negative effects of dust exposure and cigarette smoke exposure appear to be additive or possibly more than additive.

If you are in these industries and cannot change your job, take all precautions in preventing exposure to these environmental pollutants, using dust and chemical masks at all times on the job. And above all else, do not smoke cigarettes.

The most thorough article I have found on chronic bronchitis, emphysema and COPD is on Wikipedia entitled Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

Air pollution although not easy to change is also something we are not powerless over. Other factors, such as genetics are less under our control. However, if we have family members with COPD or other respiratory issues we should be extra cautious in our choices about the quality of the air we breathe.


Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to be a substitute for personal, professional, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.