Central Pennsylvania is a mix of small metropolitan cities that are surrounded by large rural areas. Sadly, some to the rural areas have been devastated by an absence of the industries that made them what they once were. Pockets of poverty are found not just in the small cities but in the rural areas as well.
What does this snapshot of central Pennsylvania have to do with lung disease? The National Health Interview Survey, which was conducted between 2012 and 2015, revealed a disturbing association between the presence of COPD and where you live, even if you did not smoke. The Survey found that rural residence and poverty were independent risk factors for COPD even if you did not smoke.
The most common reason given for these findings was the use of solid fuel for heating. In underdeveloped countries cooking with charcoal in poorly ventilated homes is a major risk factor for lung disease in women; however, this study found that community use of coal or wood as a primary heating source represented the most common risk factor for COPD, even among never-smokers. No data was presented to identify the actual condition in the homes heated by coal or wood. Interior design and poor ventilation may be part of the cause. Many of these homes belonged to folks living at or near the poverty level, but not all.
If you heat with coal or wood keep these facts in mind and have your lung health checked.