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The Spanish Respiratory and Thoracic Surgery Society (SEPAR) is a scientific society fully committed to environmental problems that affect the respiratory health of citizens and the future challenges that these generate. One of SEPAR’s main objectives is to increase the general public’s knowledge of respiratory diseases in order to improve public health.

SEPAR has therefore decided to make 2020-2021 the Year of Air Quality, the Environment and Health, continuing the work carried out in recent years to reduce pollution in our cities by supporting measures such as the creation of low-emission zones or reducing spaces where smoking is allowed. We hope that this SEPAR Year will serve to make Spanish society aware of the importance of taking care of the air we breathe.

What are SEPAR’s main concerns?

There is solid scientific evidence showing that the current air pollution levels in European cities are responsible for a significant burden of deaths, hospitalizations and exacerbation of respiratory diseases.

Air pollution affects us all and it is particularly harmful to our respiratory system. Air pollution is related to the development and exacerbation of symptoms of respiratory diseases and mortality,  as well as the development of lung cancer.

Air pollutants can affect all components of the respiratory system throughout a person’s entire life cycle, even before birth.

We know that prenatal exposure to air pollutants is associated with wheezing and asthma in early childhood. Furthermore, the development of lung function in childhood decreases with exposure to air pollutants and is a predictor of lung disease in adults.

Among adults, prolonged exposure to air pollution can cause an accelerated decline in lung function and increases the incidence of asthma. The main air pollutants have irritating effects that can induce cough, phlegm and bronchial hyperresponsiveness.

Air pollution also causes shortness of breath in most patients with severe chronic respiratory diseases and is associated with the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and lung cancer, among others.

Indoor air pollution can be more dangerous than outdoor air pollution because it adds a higher concentration in closed spaces and for longer; making it an important risk factor for COPD especially in low-income countries.

How can we leap forward for a healthy recovery in Spain and in Europe?

If we do not take care of the environment – the air we breathe, the rivers, the mountains, the fields, the seas – natural resources are mistreated and wasted and the habitat deteriorates. However, there is something more at stake: our health. We breathe around 2,800 times a day and on each inspiration, in addition to gaseous oxygen and nitrogen, our lungs inhale other substances and particles from pollution from automobiles, industries, construction, and other sources related to human activity. These pollutants compromise air quality and have harmful effects on both the environment and health. This SEPAR Year is a year especially dedicated to developing outreach and awareness activities aimed at improving air quality, highlighting the risks posed by climate change and the need to care for the environment to prevent respiratory diseases and increase everyone’s quality of life.

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