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John, a 72-year-old grandfather, had been smoking heavily for 24 years and had a persistent cough. A biopsy of his lung tissue revealed considerable amounts of carbon particles. How could this happen considering the natural cleaning mechanism of the respiratory system?
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The sweeping action of the ciliated epithelium is essential in order to propel inhaled dust and other debris out of the respiratory tract. Anything that inhibits this mechanism would allow foreign substances to remain in the tract, which may cause damage. Chemicals such as nicotine may inhibit the action of the cilia, allowing carbon particles found in smoke to reach the lungs.
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