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Archive June 2019 XX, No. 6

Anesthesia Alert: Go Green With Anesthesia Gases

How you can protect the planet from wasted inhalational anesthetics.

Daniel Cook

Daniel Cook, Editor-in-Chief


Pamela Bevelhymer, RN, BSN, CNOR
AIR QUALITY All inhaled anesthetics are potent greenhouse gases, but desflurane and nitrous oxide have the greatest impact on the environment.

The impact inhalational anesthetics have on the environment is probably greater than you realize. Consider these planet-polluting realities:

  • Administering the inhalational agent desflurane at 10.0 liters per minute for 1 hour has the same global warming potential as driving a car from Outpatient Surgery's home office in suburban Philadelphia to AORN's headquarters in Denver, Colo.
  • Inhalational anesthetics are responsible for half of the life cycle of greenhouse gas emissions coming from perioperative services.
  • Waste anesthesia gas is responsible for more than 5% of a hospital's carbon footprint.
  • The U.S. healthcare system accounts for 10% of the nation's greenhouse gases.
  • If our healthcare system were a country, it would rank 13th in the world for greenhouse emissions.

Unfortunately, capturing and evacuating waste anesthetic gas in the OR is not an environmentally friendly option. OSHA regulations that call for protecting surgical team members from exposure to inhalational anesthetics by mandating the use of scavenger systems don't go far enough.

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