Every breath you take …
During the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working a second job of sorts. At night and weekends, I suck in the air of reconstruction—literally. Dust, paint, Swedish finish, dry wall particles, wood chips, and a bunch of other stuff I can’t see.
During the more onerous jobs, I wear a mask, but it’s not enough. I’ve noticed a little raspy cough at times and I’m hitting the antihistamines a little harder than usual—all in the name of a better-looking house.
And because I work at a cancer center, I have been thinking about my lungs—and the air we breathe—a great deal. Mine is a temporary situation and I simply can’t imagine the agony of those people who struggle to pump oxygen into their lungs: lung cancer patients, people with emphysema, former and current smokers, people who are exposed to deadly air-borne chemicals on a daily basis because of their work.
But even when we know so much more about the risk of these contaminants, people are still people. One of the contractors working on my floors smoked constantly while on the job. And this is a person who works with some very harsh chemicals. A friend—a runner of all things—smokes, sometimes right after a run. “A five-mile run and a ciggy,” he jokes.
I typically don’t lecture my friends about what I have learned here at the Hutchinson Center, but there have been times when I can’t resist quoting our director, Dr. Lee Hartwell: “We now know the major cause of the most devastating cancer worldwide—lung cancer—and have the power to stop it but not the will.”
Smoking, he told us for one of our articles, increases the risk of lung cancer “by at least 2,000 percent—now there is something worth thinking about.”
Yeah, I’m getting preachy, so I better do something about it. There’s a lot worth thinking about when it comes to our lungs. Air pollution, for one—hydrocarbons and who knows what other stuff mixed in with the air we breathe. Maybe I should join the Bike to Work crowd in May and get the remodeling remnants out of my lungs once and for all.
By Ignacio Lobos