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Grandpa “trapped in his house” by a deadly condition that will soon require oxygen tanks

Leon Johnson’s doctor mistakenly assumed he’d “smoked his entire life” when he started getting short of breath and “couldn’t walk very far” in 2017.

Leon Johnson's doctor says he's'smoked his whole life'
Leon Johnson’s doctor says he’s ‘smoked his whole life’

A grandpa is “trapped in his own house” by a deadly condition that will soon require oxygen tanks.

Leon Johnson’s doctor said he had “smoked his whole life” in 2017 when he started getting short of breath and “couldn’t walk very far.”

But he hadn’t, and instead his father and grandpa smoked openly in their Merseyside terraced house, black smoke blowing out the fumes from their coal fire.

His handkerchief also turned black when he breathed into it during the 1950s smog.

In England, before the Clean Air Act of 1956 first regulated emissions, at least 4,000 people died from smoke and fog that filled the air.







Leon Johnson at home in Aughton, Merseyside
(

Picture:

Liverpool echo)

The 73-year-old retired engineer spent much of his working life amid the smoky machines before PPE and fume hoods caught on.

His lungs are now destroyed and he struggles to lift a four-pin milk bottle at the supermarket due to lack of oxygen in his blood, he reports Liverpool echo.

The Litherland grandfather-of-two has been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which the NHS describes as a group of lung conditions.

They mainly affect middle-aged and elderly smokers, causing shortness of breath, a persistent dry cough with phlegm, frequent respiratory infections, and persistent wheezing.

Leon said, “I knew right away that my life was shorter because it’s a progressive disease that will eventually kill you.”

He knows that the day he’ll need an oxygen tank “is getting closer and closer as time goes on.”

Crying and gasping for breath, Leon said: “It’s awful, the thought is always in the back of your mind that you’re going to get worse and worse over time, even if it’s very, very slowly.

“I’m running out of time and I’m considered quite young – I’m only 73.

“It’s not fair. I don’t understand why people smoke. They don’t know what they’re doing to themselves.”







The 73-year-old retired engineer spent much of his working life surrounded by the smoky machines
(

Picture:

Liverpool echo)







Leon Johnson’s lungs are now “ruined” and he’s struggling to lift a four-pin milk bottle at the supermarket
(

Picture:

Liverpool echo)

To avoid shortness of breath, Leon must keep his house dust-free and hide inside with the doors and windows closed to avoid emitting toxic fumes from cars parked with their engines running during the school run.

Even when he walks to get his COPD medication from the pharmacy, he is exposed to air pollution from cars or cigarettes smoked outside shops, aggravating his condition and forcing him to lean against the wall for breaks up the hill.

Air pollution contributes to around 36,000 premature deaths a year in the UK.

Up to 3.4 million people in the country have conditions like COPD and asthma – the symptoms of which are “triggered by toxic air”.

According to the health organization Asthma + Lung UK, this puts you at risk of “life-threatening asthma attacks and flare-ups”. Speaking of his flare-ups.

Leon said, “You’re thinking, ‘I’m not going to die, are you?’ because I’m panicking trying to get away from the fumes.”

It affects Leon’s ability to exercise, play with his grandchildren and even leave home, with a third of respondents to the Asthma + Lung UK survey saying they don’t leave home when air pollution levels are high.

Almost half said it prevents them from exercising outside, despite this being crucial for treating lung disease.

Leon said: “It’s a beautiful day, the air is still. Now, if I go outside and a vehicle is pumping out exhaust fumes and the exhaust fumes are just in the air, then I have a problem. I was told by the physical therapist to ‘go for a walk’.

“The problem is, when I’m going for a walk and the vehicles are outside, I just can’t get any air — I’m gasping for air.”

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Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of Asthma + Lung UK, said: “Air pollution is silently damaging the lives and lungs of millions of people across the UK – making people gasp, hospitalizing them and ultimately shortening lives.

“It is also affecting the daily lives of people with lung disease, who in some cases have to choose between protecting their health and leaving their homes.

Despite this, the government continues to flout strict national targets for the most harmful types of pollutants.

“This is totally unacceptable. We call on the government to commit to more ambitious clean air targets and improve air pollution warnings, including public awareness, in the upcoming environment bill.

“Anyone concerned about air pollution can make their voices heard by filling out the public consultation form on our website.”

With the government’s new air pollution targets not due to be met before 2040, Asthma + Lung UK is urging people to respond to a government consultation on the targets “calling for them to be met no later than a decade sooner”.

For more information on the public consultation, see here.

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