September 2005
                        Age  Healthier
                        Breathe   Easier
                        Information for Older Adults and Their Families
COPD is the 4th
leading cause
of death in the
United States.
In 2000, COPD
led to 726,000
hospital stays
and 1.5 million
emergency room

More than two
million people
age 65 years
and older have
asthma. In
2001, more than
860,000 older
adults had an
asthma episode
or attack.2
       Did you know that envi-
       ronmental hazards can
       make it harder to breathe
       if one suffers from
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary
Disease (COPD) or asthma? The
following are useful solutions to
control environmental factors that
can worsen these conditions. As
people age, they are more likely
to develop breathing problems
caused by lung diseases. By
knowing what can cause or set
off an asthma attack, or other
breathing problems, you may be
able to protect yourself and your
loved ones.

What in the Environment Can
Make it Harder to Breathe?
Breathing problems can occur if
you smoke or are around tobacco
smoke. Other environmental
hazards can also make it hard
to breathe, such as breathing
dust and fumes at work or in the
home, and breathing outdoor  air
The principal  types of outdoor air
pollution that can worsen breath-
ing problems include:
  Particle pollution: Particle
   pollution comes from car and
   truck exhaust, emissions from
   factories, power plants, and
   construction site dust.
  Ozone: Ozone is a gas cre-
   ated when pollutants emitted
   by cars, power and chemical
   plants, and other sources, react
   chemically with sunlight.
Breathing problems can also be
caused by indoor air pollution:
  Smoke from tobacco and
   wood-burning stoves
  Fumes created when coal, oil,
   kerosene, or gas are burned
  Fumes from household clean-
   ing products and products
   used to kill bugs or rodents,
   and other products that make
   odors (paints, wax, hobby
   products and cosmetics, fra-
   grances, and gasoline fumes)
  Dust mites (tiny bugs)
   and cockroaches
  Pet dander (skin flakes, saliva
   and urine from animals that
   can cause an allergic reaction
   such as sneezing or wheezing)
  Mold and dust

What are the Main Types
of Lung Diseases?
COPD may be caused by chronic
bronchitis or emphysema. A
person's lungs with COPD cannot
take in or force out enough air.
People with COPD get short of
breath, tire easily, cough a lot and
feel tight in the chest. Their lungs
also produce too much mucus.
As COPD becomes more serious,
people may be unable to walk
up steps or do daily tasks such
as fixing meals. COPD gets worse
over time and cannot be cured.
About 119,000 people die of
this disease each year. Many die
at a younger age than the aver-


How Can You Protect
Yourself  and Your Loved

If you have symptoms of lung disease, see a doctor
right away. Symptoms include coughing up lots of
mucus; feeling short of breath; and having a pain in
your chest.

You and your health care provider can work out a
plan for taking care of your symptoms with medi-
cine. Your health care provider may also advise you
about what to do. In addition, you can take steps
to avoid being exposed to things that can cause or
worsen lung problems.

 Avoid tobacco smoke and smoke from
 wood-burning stoves

 Clean your house to get rid of mold,
 dust mites, and cockroaches

 Keep pets out of places where you sleep

 Check your furnace, heating units, and stove
 every year for gas leaks and be sure they
 are free of mold

 Clean humidifier and air conditioner filter
 to be sure they are free of mold

 Fix water leaks right away to keep mold
 from growing and cockroaches away

 Open a window or door when using strong
 cleaning products, paint, or bug spray so the
 fumes will  not build  up indoors

 Check the Air Quality Index by visiting and follow the advice
 about staying indoors. Some newspaper, televi-
 sion, and radio weather reports also carry the
 Air Quality Index.
age American. Each year, our nation
spends about $32 million to care for
people with COPD.
Asthma makes it hard for people to
breathe at certain times. The differ-
ence between asthma and COPD is
that asthma can usually be treated.
During an asthma attack, a person
may cough very hard and struggle
to get air. Medicine in a spray bottle
called an inhaler can open up the

What Is EPA's Aging Initiative?
To help older adults enjoy a longer
and healthier life, the EPA developed
the Aging Initiative. To  learn more
about the Aging Initiative and envi-
ronmental factors that can affect your
health, visit You
can download a poster with informa-
tion about COPD and asthma called
"Age Healthier, Breathe Easier."
End Notes
1. National Institute on Heart,
   Lung and Blood, NIH,
   U.S. DHHS, Mortality and
   Morbidity Chartbook 2002 on
   Cardiovascular, Lung and  Blood
2. National Center for Health
   Statistics, Centers for Disease
   Control and Prevention, U.S.
   DHHS, Summary Health Statistics
   for U.S. Adults, National Health
   Interview Survey, 2001.
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