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The Many Causes of COPD

As humans, we were slow to understand how delicate and precious our lungs really are. From our gestation age to environment and lifestyle choices, almost everything we do in our life affects our lungs. Authorities didn't know, nor did they care about the dangers we faced. It was about money. Most of us with lung issues found out too late and did too little to mitigate the severity of our actions.

Gestation age

The gestation period of a full-term infant is 40 weeks. An infant born before 37 weeks is considered premature. If you were born a twin, your lungs will be slightly less developed. Although a baby is equipped to breathe at birth, their lungs are not fully developed until their early teens. Many young teens, in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s began smoking at the age their lungs were just becoming fully developed.

Passive smoking

Being born in the mid-1950s meant that almost everyone who came into contact with the newborn smoked. Parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles were all heavy smokers. It was a style, a fashion that was encouraged. Governments and cigarette manufacturers knew the dangers but were slow to react. Being in a constant second-hand smoking environment meant that baby, with its underdeveloped lungs, was breathing in secondhand smoke and would likely become addicted.

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Environmental pollution

One thing that man was great at in the ’50s, ‘60s, and ’70s was polluting the environment. Highways were full of lead-filled gas guzzlers with no pollution controls. Inefficiently heating your home or office with coal, allowed particulates in the air that contributed to smog, respiratory and lung disease.

Every Sunday night would be open burning garbage in backyards everywhere. Open fires would release carcinogens and environmental pollutants into the air. We thought they would simply dissipate. Instead, they released a hazardous mixture of cancer-causing components and toxic pollution, and we continued to breathe it in.

Occupational exposure

Working in a manufacturing environment, office workers, health care workers, and farmers are more susceptible to lung issues due to dust and particulate debris. Your lungs are the only internal organ that is consistently exposed to the polluted air that we inhale.

Health issues

Having had a health assault on your lungs can render them weaker. Blood clots, recurring colds, bouts of pneumonia, or pleurisy leave a mark on the lungs rendering them less likely to fight the next bout of illness.

There is a genetic form of COPD called alpha1-antitrypsin (AAT). Enzymes produced in the liver are carried to the lungs. To me, this is the saddest cause of COPD because people who get this kind of COPD cannot do anything to stop the advancement of the disease.


An estimated 90% or more of people smoked from the ’50s into the turn of the century and beyond. Those of us born in the ’50s were more likely to smoke. We mimicked our peers, it was a fashion, and everyone indulged in it. We were mostly pack-a-day smokers, but we smoked everywhere, and we smoked for many years. Smoking is the leading cause, but not the only cause of COPD.

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Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 7th, 2024, Barbara Moore passed away. Barbara’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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