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

200 million

anaesthetics worldwide

Anaesthesia is administered by ~15,000 anaesthetists for ~450,000 surgical procedures annually in the UK.²


The healthcare industry is the cause of 4-5% of all global CO₂ equivalent (CO₂e) emissions.³


The NHS carbon footprint is 25 million tonnes of CO₂e (t/CO₂e).³


Anaesthetic gases are responsible for around 2% of all NHS emissions, equating to 500,000 t/CO₂e.


Patients exhale 95% of anaesthetic agents into the atmosphere as waste gas.


Around a fifth of anaesthetic gas emissions are caused by volatile anaesthetics (sevoflurane, isoflurane and desflurane),⁶ ⁷  equating to 100,000 t/CO₂e.


The UK government is focused on reducing CO₂e emissions, with the NHS committed to reduce these by 80% by 2028-2032.


Carbon Footprint Plan

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 (GWP 20), volatile anaesthetic gases sevoflurane, isoflurane and desflurane have an impact of 508⁹, 1401 and 3714¹⁰ times that of carbon dioxide, respectively.


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