THOUSANDS of people in Southampton are at risk of falling victim to a fatal lung disease, new research by health experts has revealed.

The city has been named as one of the country's hot-spot areas for deaths from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) - a deadly condition contracted by smokers and made worse by long term exposure to air pollution and dust.

Now doctors are warning people about the dangers of starting smoking and the importance of smokers ensuring they kick the habit early enough to avoid falling victim to the disease.

Newly published statistics show that 115,00 people are diagnosed with the condition each year - the equivalent of one every five minutes.

And they reveal that people in Southampton are 20 per cent more likely to die from COPD compared to the UK average.

It follows figures revealing 5,784 people were diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in the city in 2014/15 The illness is an umbrella term for a group of chronic conditions including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

They cause narrowing of the breathing tubes and air sacs in our chest and lungs, reducing the amount of oxygen getting into the body.

British Lung Foundation (BLF) chief executive Dr Penny Woods, said that the figures are the "tip of the iceberg" warning that millions of people in the UK could have it and not know it.

She is also calling on the government to set up a respiratory taskforce to develop a new five year strategy to improve lung health.

She said: "COPD isn’t just a smokers’ disease. It usually develops because of long-term damage to your lungs from breathing in a harmful substance, usually cigarette smoke, as well as smoke from other sources and air pollution.

"Jobs where people are exposed to dust, fumes and chemicals can also contribute to developing COPD. That could be anyone."

“Millions have this life-limiting lung disease, and they don’t even know it.”

Professor Tom Wilkinson is a consultant in respiratory medicine at Southampton General Hospital and a lead researcher at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) CLAHRC Wessex at Southampton University.

He said the city is a "hot spot" for COPD due to high levels of smoking among blue collar workers which he said was in part due to a history of tobacco manufacturing in the city.

He said this was made worse by high levels of people working in industries such as shipbuilding and the docks where they face exposure to dust - plus the rising levels of air pollution in the city.

He said: "People need to be aware of the risks of starting in the first place or the importance of stopping smoking early.

"Cigarette smoke is the biggest cause of the condition. Non smoking related COPD is relatively rare but the condition can be accelerated if smokers also have significant exposure to air pollution or to occupational exposure.

"There has been a lot of energy by councils and public health leaders to improve air quality in Southampton and hopefully it will lead to long term benefits."

BLF warns that those at risk include those who get out of breath doing everyday tasks, such as walking up stairs.

Symptoms include having a cough that lasts a long time, wheezing in cold weather and producing more sputum or phlegm than usual.

These symptoms could be persistent or could be more aggravated if you have an infection or breathe in smoke or fumes.

Anyone wanting to check their lung health can complete an online breath test at or should seek help from their GP.

More information is available by contacting 03000 030 555 or visiting

Daily Echo:

DENISE Burgess has undergone a pioneering operation to combat the affects of COPD.

The 67-year-old from Hythe - who has been living with COPD for 15 years - has had an operation to fit ‘lung coils’ to help keep the airways open to her lungs.

The operations were carried out at the Southampton General Hospital in March and June this year and she said: "Life’s much better. Things are so much brighter now I can breathe. I know there’s no cure but I can live with it now.

"My husband Brian and I can walk for miles now. I couldn’t make it down Lymington High Street before but now I can walk and just keep on walking. We had a party earlier this year for my daughter and I got up and danced. She said she hadn’t seen me do that in years!

"My next target is to get to West Quay to do the Christmas shopping for everyone. It’s something I could never have done before. Then the next big thing is to fly to San Francisco next year to see my daughter and grandsons.”

Denise was diagnosed just after her daughters’ wedding in 2001 when she was just 52. She started to be sick from the build-up of mucus in her lungs. “It was those stupid cigarettes” she adds.