Air Quality and the COPD Patient
Cheryl Powers
Chamberlain College of Nursing
NR435: Community Health Nursing
May, 2018
Air Quality and the COPD Patient
One of the greatest environmental threats to our health today is polluted air. Multiple studies have shown that poor air quality, whether indoor or outdoor, can (cause) COPD or make it worse, potentially leading to death. With tobacco use/second-hand smoke leading the way as the number one cause of COPD in the United States, other attributes that follow are dust, dirt, soot, fumes, and poor ventilation.

Environmental Health Problem
With the number of residents with COPD rising, hospice nurses are caring more and more for patients with end-stage COPD. More than likely, a history of cigarette smoking triggered the onset of COPD for most patients; however, second-hand smoke in the home doesn’t fall far behind. While we know that nearly 22 percent of residents in Washington County smoke, what percentage of people use aerosol deodorant? How many people clean with undiluted Clorox? How many people live in poorly ventilated homes? How many furnaces are releasing soot into the air?
COPD has been growing so rapidly in the United States that it has moved from the number four leading cause of death to the third (Santos, 2014). Though (it is unclear) if our air quality guidelines are (adequate) for COPD patients, studies over the years have impacted the values in a positive way. COPD caused by air pollutants is no respecter of persons, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or background. However, the prominence lies heavily with those over 40 years of age and female. It is estimated that 12.7 million adults have been diagnosed with COPD in the United States, and that number could double if we included those not yet diagnosed.

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Community Resources and Interventions
Resources that are offered to the community include 1-800-Quit-Now for smoking cessation and multiple campaigns offering education and assistance. In 1997, the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) was established to raise awareness of COPD and help develop better ways to prevent, manage and treat this disease. In 1970, Congress passed the Clean Air Act Amendments, who then required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set up the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
Because COPD is the third leading cause of mortality and morbidity in the United States, “urgent action is required from the medical community and policy makers to reduce the burden of disease by adopting appropriate preventive strategies in reducing indoor pollutants” (Vijayan, 2013). One way to accomplish this is by providing smoking cessation education to the public through campaigns like Every Try Counts.

Though we have made great strides in air quality control with the implementation of the EPA, NAAQS, and GOLD, air pollutants still remain a disparaging force in COPD with the most preventable cause being smoking. With mandatory education on smoking cessation, we can continue the fight for cleaner air for all patients.

Santos, Isaura (2014). COPD Is On The Rise In The US, According To GSK Survey. November 13, 2014. Retrieved from, V. (2013). Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Indian Journal of Medical Research. 137(2): 251-269.


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