Lung disease refers to any disease or disorder in which the lungs do not function properly. Lung disease is the third leading killer in the United States, responsible for one in seven deaths, and is the leading cause of death among infants under the age of one. Some lung diseases, like asthma and emphysema, involve a narrowing or blockage of the airways resulting in poor air flow. Others, including pulmonary fibrosis, pneumonia and lung cancer, are caused by a loss of elasticity in the lungs that produces a decrease in the total volume of air that the lungs are able to hold. Research has shown that long-term exposure to air pollutants can reduce lung growth and development and increase the risk of developing asthma, emphysema, and other respiratory diseases. Results from the NIEHS-supported Harvard Six Cities Study, the largest available database on the health effects of outdoor and indoor air pollution, show a strong association between exposure to ozone, fine particles and sulfur dioxide, and an increase in respiratory symptoms, reduced lung capacity, and risk of early death.
What is NIEHS Doing?
NIEHS Research Efforts
- 14th Report on Carcinogens - A congressionally mandated, science-based, public health document that NTP prepares for the HHS Secretary. This cumulative report currently includes 248 listings of agents, substances, mixtures, and exposure circumstances that are known or reasonably anticipated to cause cancer in humans.
- Cross-Divisional Inflammation Faculty - The cross-divisional inflammation faculty is a trans-NIEHS collaboration on cutting-edge research related to Inflammation.
- Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves Cookstove - smoke contributes to a range of chronic illnesses and acute health impacts such as low birth weight and acute pneumonia in children under 5, lung cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and cardiovascular disease.
- LIFE and VALID Lung Studies - The Lung Imaging Fluorescence Endoscopy (LIFE) Study−a collaborative effort between NIEHS and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine−investigated both LIFE and various molecular techniques for detecting and following early lung lesions in patients with a high risk for developing lung cancer.
- Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH) - PEPH is a network of scientists, community members, educators, healthcare providers, public health officials, and policymakers who share the goal of increasing the impact of environmental public health research at the local, regional, and national level.
- Programs and Initiatives: Climate Change and Human Health - The major public health organizations of the world have said that climate change is a critical public health problem.
- The Interagency Working Group on Climate Change and Health (1MB) - A Report Outlining the Research Needs on the Human Health Effects of Climate Change
- Valley Fever (82KB) - Valley Fever is a fungus that grows and lives in the soil throughout the southwestern desert regions of Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah; northern Mexico, and portions of Central and South America. The valley fever fungus is most prevalent between June and November. If you inhale the valley fever spores, you may develop a lung infection. This factsheet was prepared under the Community Assist of Southern Arizona (CASA).
Join an NIEHS Study
Your participation in clinical studies at NIEHS helps researchers discover how your environment affects your health. Please help us find new ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat illness and disease. Click on a study below to find out more information.
Stories from the Environmental Factor (NIEHS Newsletter)
- India's air pollution, health burden get NIEHS attention (September 2018)
- Genetics and pollution drive severity of asthma symptoms (September 2018)
- Birnbaum Speaks at Allergy, Asthma, Immunology Meeting (April 2018)
- Large-Scale Analysis Yields New Dna Regions Involved in Lung Function (July 2014)
- Volunteers translate NIEHS cookstove research in Guatemala (January 2012)
- Household Contaminants Associated with Childhood Respiratory Problems (November 2012)
- Workshop Addresses the Millions Who Die Yearly from Household Air Pollution (November 2102)
- Asbestos Worker and Employer Guide to Hazards and Recommended Controls (1MB) - This guidance document contains recommendations as well as descriptions of OSHA safety and health standards. From the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force - Indoor Environmental Pollutants Work Group.
- Be Tobacco Free - BeTobaccoFree.gov provides information from various Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) operating and staff divisions.
- Certain Glass Wool Fibers (Inhalable) - Glass wool fibers are synthetic or man-made, very small finely spun fibers of glass that form a mass resembling wool. They are commonly used for insulation or filtration.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Learn More Breathe Better - COPD is on the rise—more than 16 million are told by a health care provider that they have COPD. Get the information you need to know here.
- Disease Prevention Toolkit - Taking steps to protect your health is the best way to prevent disease and other conditions. Health screenings, vaccines, and guarding yourself from germs and bugs can help keep you feeling your best.
- Healthy People 2020 - Healthy People provides science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans.
- Homeowner's and Renter's Guide to Asbestos Cleanup after Disasters (1MB) - A guide from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and NIH. From the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force - Indoor Environmental Pollutants Work Group
- Household Products Database: Health Effects - Search the Household Products Database of the National Library of Medicine, which links over 16,000 consumer brands to health effects from Safety Data Sheets by health effect.
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: National Asthma Education and Prevention Program - The NAEPP works with intermediaries including major medical associations, voluntary health organizations, and community programs to educate patients, health professionals, and the public.
- Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms: Cancer - Designed to help learners at any level better understand genetic terms
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