November 2009
COPD is the 4th
leading cause of
death in the United
States. In 2006,
COPD led
to 672,000 hospital
stays and 1.4
million hospital
emergency room

More than two
million adults age
65 and older have
asthma. In 2004,
more than one
million older adults
had an asthma
episode or attack/
                          Age   Healthier
                          Breathe   Easier
                          Information for Older Adults and Their Caregivers
       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 envi-
ronmental factors that can worsen
these conditions. As people age, they
are more likely to develop breath-
ing problems caused by lung dis-
eases. 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 pollutants.
The principal types of outdoor air
pollution that can worsen breathing
problems include:
   Particle pollution: Particle pol-
   lution comes from car and truck
   exhaust, emissions from facto-
   ries, power plants, and construc-
   tion site  dust.
   Ozone: Ozone is a gas created
   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, fragrances, and gaso-
   line fumes)
  Dust mites (tiny bugs)
   and cockroaches
  Pet dander (skin flakes, saliva and
   urine from animals that can cause
   an allergic reaction such as sneez-
   ing 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 eas-
ily, 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

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.
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 average 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  lungs.

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 environmental
factors  that  can affect your health, visit You can down-
load a  poster with information about
COPD and asthma called "Age Healthier,
Breathe Easier."
End Notes
1  Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, National Center for Health
Statistics. Final Vital Statistics Report. Deaths:
Final Data for 2005, Vol. 56, No. 10, April 24,
2 National Center for Health  Statistics. Raw
Data from the National Health Interview
Survey, U.S., 1982-1996, 2001-2004.
                      Easy-to-read version of Age Healthier, Breathe Easier
                      Publication Number EPA 100-F-09-050