The manufacture of virgin anaesthetic agents and their eventual release as waste volatile gases is highly damaging to the environment and contributes significantly to the total carbon footprint of healthcare. These gases cause climate change by trapping heat, and they also contribute to respiratory disease from smog and air pollution. The World Health Organisation has listed the ‘World Climate Crisis’ as the most significant health challenge we face, with air pollution alone killing an estimated seven million people annually with more than 25% of deaths from chronic respiratory disease, heart attack, lung cancer, and stroke being attributed to the same emissions responsible for global warming.¹
Anaesthesia is administered by ~15,000 anaesthetists for ~450,000 surgical procedures annually in the UK.²
The healthcare industry is the cause of 5% of all global CO₂e emissions.³
The NHS produces 3% of all UK CO₂e emissions.
Patients exhale 95% of anaesthetic gas into the atmosphere as waste.
The NHS carbon footprint in England is 22.8 million tonnes of CO₂e (t/CO₂e).
These gases are responsible for over 2% of all NHS emissions,⁴ equating to 97,000 tonnes of CO₂e (t/CO₂e) released across the UK.⁵
The UK government is focused on reducing CO₂e emissions, with the NHS committed to reduce these by 80% by 2028-2032.⁶
Anaesthetic gases are a priority under Scope 1 – directly controlled emissions of the NHS Carbon Footprint Plan.
of anaesthetic agents
Only through the capture and recycling of anaesthetic agents can we move to a more sustainable delivery of anaesthesia.
Global Warming Potential
Once exhaled into the atmosphere, waste volatile anaesthetic agents stay around for a long time and have high tropospheric* lifetimes and subsequently high global warming potentials (GWP).
GWP is a measure of the relative contribution of mass of inhalational anaesthetic agents to an equivalent mass of carbon dioxide and is the most recognised method in anaesthesia to describe the relative contribution of a greenhouse gas towards global warming.
Over a 20-year period (GWP20), volatile anaesthetic gases sevoflurane, isoflurane and desflurane have an impact of 508, 1401 and 3714 times that of carbon dioxide, respectively.⁷
* The troposphere is the first and lowest layer of the atmosphere of the Earth, containing the majority of our planetary atmosphere.
Carbon Footprint Of Volatile Anaesthetic Agents
Every hospital and healthcare setting has an impact on our environment. SageTech Medical offers organisations a bespoke carbon savings report based on your actual volatile agent usage. This report uses the information below to calculate the amount of CO2e our proprietary technology is estimated to save your organisation.
Please click here to fill in a survey to receive a free, bespoke carbon savings report.