Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a disease that causes airflow obstruction, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. In 2008, COPD became the third leading cause of death in the U.S., affecting more than 20 million people. One in five adults over the age of 45 currently has COPD.

November is National COPD awareness month and health professionals, health-care providers, and COPD patient groups all collaborate to raise awareness and treatment of the deadly disease. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s COPD Learn More, Breathe Better campaign is helping to educate the public and improve awareness of COPD. The campaign lists the risk factors for COPD, including having worked around chemicals and fumes (such as railroad workers).

Recently,the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a set of goals that define the particular role and contributions of public health regarding the prevention and control of COPD.

Exposures to chemicals, fumes, vapors, air pollution, and tobacco smoke are several causes of COPD. Currently there is no cure for COPD; however, early detection is crucial as COPD is often treatable. Symptoms of COPD can include shortness of breath, chronic coughing, and mucus production. It is important to recognize the risks and symptoms to slow the disease and improve the quality of life.