Protect Assess How Warning

The human lungs are complex and highly evolved organs whose performance is life-sustaining. And while medical science has over decades developed a deep knowledge of their function and related diseases, important research continues relentlessly and new insight is gained every day.

The factors causing lung disease are numerous and interrelated, including heredity, overall health, geography, lifestyle habits such as smoking, exposure to second hand smoke, air pollution and more.

In short, smoking, exposure to radon and exposure to second-hand smoke are the most significant, easily assessed factors in determining your risk.


Tiny, spherical outcroppings of the bronchioles. The alveolar membrane is the gas-exchange surface. The blood brings carbon dioxide from the rest of the body for release into the alveoli, and the oxygen in the alveoli is taken up by the blood in the alveolar blood vessels, to be transported to all the cells in the body.


Smaller passageways that extend to from the bronchi to the alveoli.


These are the large passageways that extend from the trachea into the lungs.


The bony tube that connects the nose to the mouth and then to the lungs, allowing the passage of air. The trachea is also known as the windpipe

Air pollution poses serious health risks. At home, school, outdoors and at work, everyone should be aware of factors affecting air quality and take every reasonable step to avoid breathing heavily polluted air. For more about these issues and how you can better assure that you and your family is breathing healthy air, visit The American Lung Association.
Asbestos was used as an insulator and fire retardant until it became known that its microscopic fibers cause disease, including cancer and asbestosis. Asbestosis is a disease that involves scarring of lung tissue from breathing in asbestos fibers. The lung tissues and the lining of the chest wall thicken and harden, and the scarring hinders breathing and reduces oxygen reaching the bloodstream. The disease worsens slowly over time. In some people the disease causes no symptoms, while in others it can cause severe symptoms. Today asbestos is a well-recognized, highly regulated health hazard. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) established regulations dealing with asbestos exposure on the job, specifically in construction work, shipyards, and general industry that employers are required to follow.
Avoid exposure to radon. Radon is an invisible, naturally occurring gas (colorless, tasteless, odorless) that ranks second behind smoking as a cause of lung cancer. Every home should be tested for it, since radon can be found in any home. If your residence has high radon, it can be fixed.

For more information on indoor radon, visit the EPA's Consumer's Guide to Radon.
Stop (or better yet, don't start) smoking. Research indicates that approximately 80% of all lung cancer is directly related to smoking. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death - each year, more than 392,000 people die from tobacco-caused disease, and an additional 50,000 die from long-term exposure to secondhand smoke. Even for those who stop smoking at a young age or never smoke at all, the risk of lung cancer and related disease never drops to zero, but these steps can dramatically improve those odds.
Air Quality Asbestos Radon Smoking

Chronic Cough

A cough lasting a month or longer is chronic. It's an important signal indicating problems with your breathing system, regardless of age.

Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath continuing after a brief rest following normal exercise - or develops with little or no exertion - isn't normal. Labored breathing, the sensation of difficulty in drawing air or exhaling is also a warning sign.

Chronic Mucus Production

Mucus, also called sputum or phlegm, is produced by the airways as a defense against infections or irritants. If your mucus production continues for a month, it may indicate lung disease.


"Noisy breath" or wheezing indicates that something unusual is blocking your lungs' airways or narrowing them unnaturally.

Coughing Up Blood

Blood being coughed up may originate from your lungs or upper respiratory tract. Whatever the source, it signals a health problem.

Chronic Chest Pain

Unexplained chest pain lasting a month or more - especially if it worsens with breathing or coughing - can also be a warning sign. The degree of pain may vary over a wide range, but its persistence over a month or more is a key factor as it relates to possible lung disease.

  • Assess Your Risk
  • How Your Lungs Work
  • Protecting Your Lungs
  • Warning Signs

Unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.
Air Quality
Memorial Lung