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COPD: Banish the stigma and see the light in 2015!

Yes, there is a certain stigma that comes with having COPD. 

Let me start by saying this. Smoking is bad, don't do it! (That will be the last time you hear me say that.)

How many times have you heard:

Did you smoke when you were younger?

You keep getting sick because you smoke!

It's because you used to smoke!

You did this to yourself!

Without finding a true cause, we will never find a cure." ~April Norman

In ALL of the questionnaires, surveys, focus groups, I have participated in... SMOKING was the ONLY focus. What about those Alpha-1's? What about the 19 year old COPD patient that never smoked, or even lived in a smoking household? What about ALL of the other factors that COULD have been major contributors to damaged lungs? Allergens, work place pollution, public pollution... 

There are MANY other things I personally have had to deal with in my life that COULD have damaged my lungs.

What about the fire? They were told to use gasoline to clean the garage floor... It works great to get the motor oil cleaned up so they could paint the floor... That arching wire! I told him the wire was arching! The fumes were overpowering me and I went to leave the office then BOOM! I was trapped in the office as the entire garage went up in flames. The air consumed by fire and whooshed past my body, setting ablaze anything in its path. Except my hair and eyebrows thankfully! My eyebrows never grew back right, but it was GREAT for my lungs right?
(This photo shows car lot in 1958. I was trapped in the payment office in 2007 when it caught fire.)

The ex using so much pine-sol  to clean the floor, that I thought my lungs were literally dying. The burning sensation I felt, the gasping for breath. Nah, that couldn't have caused it! 
Working in a pet store when I was severely allergic to pets couldn't have hurt either. Constant allergy attacks, the overproduction of mucus, wheezing, coughing. Those allergy attacks caused me to get sick, every 2 months! Full blown pneumonia. But, hey. I had to work right? If I took off the entire time I was sick, every time, I would have worked about 6 weeks out of the year.

Oh, and neglecting my health to make the money to support my family was very helpful too right? Over the past year I have learned much about COPD. My non-biased research has helped me learn what information other countries are promoting to their constituents. Smoking, is being phased out! It is now known that there are MANY causes of COPD and smoking, is most likely a incidental finding.

Now, this is just my personal opinion... But, I believe that pollution in general is what is raising the rates of COPD diagnosis' across the world. I have always thought that our advancements are killing us. Cars, mechanisms with oils and gasses burning, more buildings being heated with a variety of fuels. Crops sprayed with pesticides. Have you ever had your window down when a crop duster few over while spraying? IT BURNS YOUR LUNGS. 

If only we could go back to the (g)olden days. 

Where we grew our own food, traded surplus for other items we needed. What if we worked in our own communities instead of commuting 20+ miles from home... If we walked or rode bicycles around town, or rode horses... We don't need huge industrial complexes making things that we are just going to throw in the trash. Where neighbors helped one another without expectations other than a little help back when they needed it.

Having COPD, as you know, WAS caused my you smoking more than 5 packs of cigarettes in your lifetime. No? 
What's that you say? 
You say you never smoked? 
Well, if we listen to the government officials, particularly in the US... You are a lair. 

You MUST have smoked! Just kidding, I know better. You MUST be an Alpha1! No? Still kidding here people!

(Looks like a mess right? That is stigma.)

But, I need your help! How can you help? By avoiding the cigarette conversation. 

We need to remind people that there are also CHILDREN being diagnosed with COPD, non-Alpha1 CHILDREN who never smoked. Whose parents never smoked... Who never set foot into a smoky bar after work on Friday... Who go to schools, where smoking isn't allowed! Adults that never smoked, but maybe worked in a factory or drove the city bus... People who worked with animals in a congested shelter setting, painters, construction workers. People who live close to industrial complexes, people that clean dusty residential homes. Healthcare workers, who are exposed to many illnesses in turn becoming sick themselves... Hardworking people who cannot afford to miss work because of a cough or sneeze every month. People that just cannot miss work because of the position they are in, and have an inability to take time off of work. Those dedicated business owners who work day in and day out to make sure their customers are cared for properly. Look, I could go on and on. But, the fact remains, no one knows for sure why we get COPD. But, the people who get it are just like everyone else. 

COPD isn't new either... It has been around for thousands of years! And, it is not exclusive to humans! Did you know that horses get COPD? Knowing this, I can only surmise that the rise in COPD numbers is due to the rise in air pollution. Pollution that didn't exist in the year 200 like it exists today with automobiles and gas generated power everything. 

We need to remove the stigma that comes with COPD being so strongly associated with smoking. We need to remind everyone, or teach everyone ALL of the facts we have so far. 

COPD IS confirmed to be caused by:
  • Bacterial infections
  • Viral infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Workplace air pollution, dust, smoke,or fumes
  • Home air pollution, dust, smoke or fumes
  • PUBLIC air pollution, dust, smoke or fumes
  • Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency
  • allergens and lung irritants causing inflammation
  • and more causes yet to be confirmed!
THESE need to be the focus of our COPD conversations. THESE facts will help remove the stigma that is swaying people to not donate to our cause... THESE facts will help remove the stigma, that makes a researcher decide to research some other illness. THESE facts will help you child, your grandchild reduce their risk of getting COPD. 

These facts will help our cause gain acceptance, funding, and research. If we are to ever find a cure, we must remove the stigma, and focus on the facts.

Only 15-20% of smokers get COPD... That speaks volumes about what causes COPD. 75-80% of smokers were not expose too, or susceptible too COPD.

We have all heard that 80% of all COPD patients were or are smokers... What they didn't tell you was, that is all they were looking for in the study that came up with that percentage. Did you participate in that study? Chances are you didn't. If you only look for one thing, really hard... You will find it. 

Lets look really hard at the other causes this year and keep the in the front of our minds when we talk to others about COPD. 

Take a look at what you can do to prevent inhaling lung irritants:

  • Avoiding underground parking garages.
  • Avoiding high traffic or industrialized areas.
  • Not using perfumes, scented lotions or other highly scented products that may irritate your lungs.
  • Using non-aerosol cleaning or painting products in well-ventilated areas and wearing a mask or handkerchief over your mouth when cleaning (dusting, vacuuming, sweeping) or working in the yard.
  • Reducing exposure to dust by regularly changing filters on heaters and air conditioners and using a dehumidifier.
  • Keeping pets out of the house, especially if you wheeze.
  • Using an exhaust fan when cooking to remove smoke and odors.
  • Staying indoors when the outside air quality is poor and pollen counts are high.
  • Following weather reports and avoiding extreme weather. During cold weather, cover your face when going outdoors. During extreme humidity, try to stay in air conditioned areas.
Sadly, this list is not as comprehensive as I would like. Those working in certain environments might want to take special precautions. Especially, those inhaling metal fragments or nail dust (animal or human) which can contain bacteria or fungi, and just isn't healthy to be inhaling anyways.

How much work would you miss if you couldn't work because any number of these are present in your workplace? What about not being able to leave your home at all because the pollen count is too high?

My promise to you in 2015, is to bring you facts about COPD. New research developments, and new ways to live better with COPD.

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