Climate Change

Does your inhalers cause global warming?

Published: Friday 08 November 2019

Millions of patients across the world use metered-dose inhalers (MDI) for asthma and other respiratory problems. The inhalers contain compressed gas hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) as a propellant to atomise and deliver medicine to the patient’s lungs.

But HFA is a major greenhouse gas with high global warming potential. Now British researchers say swapping MDIs with dry-powder inhalers (DPIs) can cut the risk.

DPIs, however, are more expensive than MDIs.

Approximately seven in ten inhaler prescriptions in the United Kingdom are MDIs. Now, every 10th MDI was swapped for a DPI, that could reduce carbon dioxide emission by 58 kilotonne, according to the new study published in British Medical Journal’s BMJ Open. The researchers studied National Health Service prescription data from England in 2017 and collated carbon footprint data on inhalers commonly used in England.

MDIs leave about 4 per cent of the carbon footprint of UK’s National Health Service. This could be overcome if DPIs were cheaper. The carbon footprint level ranges from 10-36 kilogramme of carbon dioxide per inhaler.


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