Air Pollutants Damage Lungs Like Cigarette Smoke: What Can You Do?

air pollutionIt’s long been a mystery why so many non-smokers develop “smoker’s diseases” like lung cancer. Now that mystery may have been solved, thanks to research by Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge scientists.

H. Barry Dellinger, Ph.D., the Patrick F. Taylor Chair of Environmental Chemistry at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and colleagues detected a new type of air pollutant they call persistent free radicals (PFRs). While it’s long been known that free radicals, molecules that are highly damaging to cells in your body, exist in the atmosphere, most of them only exist for less than a second, then disappear.

PFRs, on the other hand, linger in the air and can travel over great distances. They form on airborne nanoparticles and other fine particle residues as gasses from smokestacks, exhaust pipes and household chimneys cool. What makes these particles unique, and especially dangerous, is the fact that they could have effects similar to those caused by tobacco smoke.

“Free radicals from tobacco smoke have long been suspected of having extremely harmful effects on the body,” Dellinger said on “Based on our work, we now know that free radicals similar to those in cigarettes are also found in airborne fine particles and potentially can cause many of the same life-threatening conditions. This is a staggering, but not unbelievable result, when one considers all of diseases in the world that cannot currently be attributed to a specific origin.”

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