June 2007
Chronic Obstructive
Pulmonary Disease
(COPD) is the fourth
leading cause of
death in the United
More than two
million adults age
65 and older have
asthma, and in
2004 more than one
million older adults
suffered an asthma

                        Age  Healthier
                        Breathe  Easier
                        Information for Older Adults and their Caregivers
       Did you know that
       Chronic Obstructive
       Pulmonary Disease
       (COPD) is the fourth
leading cause of death in the
United States, claiming more
than 120,000 lives in 2003?1 In
2000, COPD caused 726,000
hospitalizations and 1.5 million
hospital emergency room
visits.2 COPD includes chronic
bronchitis and emphysema -
lung diseases which frequently
coexist and are characterized
by obstruction to air flow,
making it difficult to breathe.
Smokers are particularly at risk
of developing COPD, however,
it also has been linked to
workplace exposure to dust
and fumes. Symptoms include
chronic cough, increased
mucus production, chest
tightness, shortness of breath
and difficulty breathing.

Economic Impact of
COPD and Asthma

In 2004, the annual treatment
cost for all age groups was
approximately $37 billion for
COPD.3 The cost of  asthma in
2000 was estimated to be $18
billion.4 COPD is particularly
common among older adults
and significantly compromises
their quality of life. As baby
boomers age, the number of
older adults affected by COPD
and asthma is expected to
grow significantly.
Environmental Hazards,
Triggers for COPD and

Outdoor Air
Exposure to air pollution can
pose a significant risk to older
adults, especially those with lung
disease.  Particle pollution may
aggravate lung diseases including,
COPD and asthma, and may be
responsible for serious health
effects, including hospitalization
or premature death. Ozone also
may aggravate lung diseases and
may result in emergency room
and hospital admissions.

Indoor Air
Pollutants that exist within
homes and buildings also
may be harmful to persons
with COPD or asthma. Many
older persons spend up to 90
percent of their time indoors,
often at home. Common indoor
environmental hazards that
may trigger COPD and asthma
attacks include tobacco smoke
(direct and second-hand smoke),
animal dander, dust mites and
cockroaches, mold, dust and
pollen. Other sources of indoor
air pollution that may trigger a
COPD or asthma attack include
combustion products of oil, gas,
kerosene and coal, and building
materials and furnishings made
of pressed wood products.
Pesticides, household cleaning
products and substances with

                  Pollutants that exist within homes and buildings also may be
                  harmful to persons with COPD or asthma.

What you can do to
control and reduce
exposure to
environmental hazards
If you or your loved one experience symptoms
of COPD or asthma, consult a doctor and follow
a management plan outlined  by your health
care provider. The key to management of these
diseases is through preventive measures and
reduced exposure to environmental hazards.
Take steps to prevent, control and reduce the
frequency of symptoms to allow you or your
loved one to breathe easier.

   Avoid tobacco smoke

   Avoid smoke from wood-burning stoves

   Reduce mold, dust mites and
   cockroaches in your home

   Keep pets out of sleeping areas

   Check furnace and heating units

   Fix water leaks promptly

   Check the Air Quality Index (AQI)

Reduce outdoor activity as much as possible on
poor air quality days. The AQI reports how clean
the air is and whether it will affect your health.
If you have access to the Internet, you can learn
more about the AQI by visiting www.epa.gov/
airnow.  If you do not have access to a computer
or the internet, you can learn  more about the
daily AQI through newspaper, television and
radio weather  reports.
                                                irritating odors also may exacerbate
                                                these diseases.
Learn More About EPA's
Aging Initiative
The Aging Initiative is working to protect
the environmental health of older adults
through the coordination of research,
prevention strategies and public
education. For more information about
the Aging Initiative, visit www.epa.

A poster entitled "Age Healthier Breathe
Easier" on COPD, asthma and older
adults is also available on the website to
                                                1. National Vital Health Statistics Reports,
                                                Vol. 55, No. 10, March 15, 2007.

                                                2. Centers for Disease Control and
                                                Prevention, U.S. DHHS. (2002)
                                                Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
                                                Surveillance Summary, United States,

                                                3. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute,
                                                Morbidity and Mortality Chartbook, 2004.

                                                4. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of
                                                America.  Costs of Asthma in America.
                                                http://www.aafa.org/display.cf m?id=
                                                5. National Center for Health Statistics.
                                                Raw Data from the National Health
                                                Interview Survey, U.S., 1982-1996,

                                                Publication Number EPA-100-F-07-016