The environmental impact of anaesthesia



anaesthesia, global warming, ozone depletion, life cycle assessments, waste management


Global health care contributes an estimated 4.4–4.6% of global carbon emissions.1-3 In most countries, the healthcare sector is the greatest service sector source of carbon emissions, with only the energy, transport and construction sectors contributing more.1 Ozone (O3) depletion, waste production and the use and contamination of precious resources are other ways in which health care adversely affects our environment.4

All inhalational anaesthetic agents are greenhouse gases (GHGs).4-9 Sulbaek Andersen et al.8 estimated that the cumulative release of volatile anaesthetic agents into our environment has a global warming potential (GWP) equivalent to that of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from one coal-fired power plant. Furthermore, isoflurane and nitrous oxide (N2O) have the potential to deplete the stratospheric O3 layer.4,5,9 As a resourceintense speciality, anaesthesia also contributes significantly to carbon emissions through the processes involved in the manufacturing, packaging, procurement and disposal of equipment, consumables and drugs.6,7

Author Biography

T Kleyenstuber, University of the Witwatersrand

Department of Anaesthesia, Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa






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