Inhaled gases, solid particles, or liquid aerosols may deposit throughout the respiratory system, depending on their chemical and physical properties. The large surface area of the respiratory passages and alveolar region and the large volume of air delivered to that area (approximately 6-7 L/minute in a young man) provide great opportunity for interaction between inhaled materials and lung tissue. Examples of inhaled xenobiotics that cause lung damage and those that have entered the body by ingestion, injection, or dermal absorption are presented in Figure 7.1.
Exposure of the lungs to xenobiotics may result in a number of disease conditions including bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, pneu-moconiosis, and cancer. During repair, damaged lung alveolar epithelium may be replaced by fibrous tissue that does not allow for gas exchange, which intensifies the damage caused by the initial lesion.
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If you suffer with asthma, you will no doubt be familiar with the uncomfortable sensations as your bronchial tubes begin to narrow and your muscles around them start to tighten. A sticky mucus known as phlegm begins to produce and increase within your bronchial tubes and you begin to wheeze, cough and struggle to breathe.