How do small particles we breathe in from everyday sources not harm us?


Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the air I we breathe when washing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning, etc, and wondering how the small particles from these activities don’t cause damage to our lungs. I know the body has natural systems which filter what we breathe, but wouldn’t even a small amount of chemicals being inhaled cause long-term damage?

In: Biology

I mean, they do. Air quality, indoor and outdoor, is a significant contributor to long term health outcomes. A whole host of chronic lung diseases like COPD can be linked to air quality.

In fact, a lot of people are happy about the overdue focus on indoor air quality due to Covid. It’s kind of flown under the radar for lots of years given how (relatively) cheap it is to improve and how much of an in impact it can have on health outcomes.

Chronic (that is, repeated, sustained, or continuous) exposure to certain substances can certainly be bad for you. But we can choose what substances we use that are safer for human exposure, so that even low-level exposures over long periods of time like detergents won’t be hazardous. And, as you say, your body can mitigate some of these hazards on its own. If you breathe in a couple molecules of poison here and there, your body will be able to deal with it, even if a few cells die each time.

They do. But many take 30-50 years to accumulate to a level that causes problems. But the body also has ways of protecting against these particles before they get into the lungs, and also ways of getting rid of damage after the fact.
Problems arise when the body’s natural defences are not up to the task either due to large amounts of chemicals and materials being breathed in, or from the body’s immune system being compromised.

Granted, I haven’t searched with much diligence, but I’ve never seen a study on the respiratory (and other) effects of rubber debris. We have all been living among motorized vehicles for decades and tons of ground-up tire tread don’t just disappear. For years I’ve wondered about this particular pollutant and why it seems to get no attention.