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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Can other factors besides smoking cause emphysema?

    I have always associated emphysema with long-term smoking. Is there any other way to get emphysema?
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    Lung Foundation Australia was established in 1990 by a group of thoracic physicians concerned about the chronic shortage of funds for research work in respiratory … View Profile

    In Australia, COPD usually occurs in people who have smoked or continue to smoke cigarettes.  However, it can be caused by environmental or genetic factors.

    Other known causes of COPD include:

    • Passive smoking, especially during infancy when the lungs are still developing
    • Exposure to occupational dusts and chemicals.  Miners and livestock farmers are at heightened risk of COPD.
    • Environmental agents, including indoor and outdoor pollution, however this is more a problem in the developing world.
    • Women may be a t greater risk of environmental agents than men due to the fact that they generally have smaller lungs and more sensitive airways.
    • A small proportion of COPD is as a result of a genetic deficiency of the protein alpha-1 antitrypsin, a substance whose role is to protect the lung from damage. airways.

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