What causes lung disease?

Experts don’t know the causes of all types of lung disease, but they do know the causes of some. These include:

  • Smoking. Smoke from cigarettes, cigars, and pipes is the number one cause of lung disease. Don’t start smoking, or quit if you already smoke. If you live or work with a smoker, avoid secondhand smoke. Ask smokers to smoke outdoors. Secondhand smoke is especially bad for babies and young children.
  • Radon. This colorless, odorless gas is present in many homes and is a recognized cause of lung cancer. You can check for radon with a kit bought at many hardware stores. Radon can be reduced in your home if you find out there are high levels.
  • Asbestos. This is natural mineral fiber that is used in insulation, fireproofing materials, car brakes, and other products. Asbestos can give off small fibers that are too small to be seen and can be inhaled. Asbestos harms lung cells, causing lung scarring and lung cancer. It can cause mesothelioma (MEZ-oh-THEE-lee-OH-muh), which is a cancer that forms in the tissue covering the lungs and many other organs of the body.
  • Air pollution. Recent studies suggest that some air pollutants like car exhaust may contribute to asthma, COPD, lung cancer, and other lung diseases.

Some diseases that affect the lungs, like the flu, are caused by germs (bacteria, viruses, and fungi).

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