What is the purpose of our human lungs? Everyone will answer this question with the response: to breathe of course. Without breathing (either on our own or through artificial breathing support), life stops. We all know that the main component of air is oxygen; however the air is also full of many other damaging and toxic particles from smoking, pollen, pollution, environmental and work place chemicals/ fumes.
Oxygen is essential for all biological functions at the tissue level especially the brain and the heart. It is carried to these areas by the red blood cells. Carbon Monoxide (found in cigarette smoke and exhaust fumes) binds to the red cells exactly where the oxygen is supposed to attach. This prevents the body from an access to this most important food/ energy source resulting in tough leathery looking skin, coarse voice, chronic productive cough, mental deterioration, shortness of breath, heart disease and decreased muscle strength.
These other toxic components in the air will damage the lungs with scarring of the lung tissue resulting in asthma and/ or chronic pulmonary disease (COPD) such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. This scarring prevents the oxygen from getting from the air that we breathe to the red blood cells. Once damage occurs it is permanent -there is no cure, the degree of disability is great, and the end stages are not over quickly .
Since one of the primary functions of the respiratory tract is to filter out these inhaled pollutants you can promote respiratory health or preserve what good function you have left by decreasing the exposure to these pollutants. Stop smoking, wear a mask when the air is contaminated (such as dusty work environments, cleaning house or second hand smoke), use air conditioner in the summer when the pollution levels are higher, decrease your exposure to coughing/ sneezing during flu season, and avoid locations where there is a lot of second hand smoke.
Once again, prevention is the only way to prevent damage to the body. Once significant damage occurs, the body finds it impossible to return to a pre-damage state. Your lifestyle will definitely be changed forever.