Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Asthma Patients Can Minimize Carbon Footprint by Using 'Greener' Inhalers

Climate
Asthma Patients Can Minimize Carbon Footprint by Using 'Greener' Inhalers
Three different types of dry powder inhalers used to deliver medicines in respiratory diseases such as asthma. From left to right: Turbuhaler, Accuhaler and Ellipta devices. BrettMontgomery / CC BY-SA 4.0

For people suffering from asthma, an inhaler is an indispensable, life-saving accessory that always needs to be within reach. Now, a new study from the University of Cambridge in the UK has found that switching to a "greener" alternative has as much environmental impact as reducing meat, becoming an avid recycler or installing wall insulation, as the BBC reported.


The study, which was published Wednesday in BMJ Open, looked at the environmental and economic impact of having asthma users switch from metered-dose inhalers (MDI) to inhalers that release fewer pollutants, such as dry powder inhalers (DPI). DPIs have a carbon footprint that is 10 to 37 times smaller than MDIs.

The researchers found that inhalers accounted for nearly 4 percent of the National Health Service's greenhouse gas emissions, according to experts. Seven out of 10 inhalers of the 50 million prescribed in the UK in 2017 were the high-polluting MDI kind, but switching just 10 percent of those to the least expensive DPI would remove 58,000 tons of CO2 per year, as SkyNews reported. That's the carbon equivalent of 180,000 round trips in a car from London to Edinburgh, which are 400 miles apart.

Additionally, switching just 10 percent of inhalers to DPIs would save the National Health Services over $10.6 million a year, as SkyNews reported.

"Climate change is a huge and present threat to health that will disproportionately impact the poorest and most vulnerable on the planet, including people with pre-existing lung disease," said James Smith, a consultant in public health at the University of Cambridge and a study author, in a statement.

"Our study shows that switching to inhalers which are better for the environment could help individuals, and the NHS as a whole, reduce their impact on the climate significantly. This is an important step towards creating a zero carbon healthcare system fit for the 21st century," he added.

Inhalers, as people with asthma know, are crucial in treating the symptoms of some respiratory ailments like asthma. An inhaler releases medicine directly into a patient's lungs, widening the airways so oxygen can pass around blockages, making it easier to breathe, according to CNN.

Metered-dose inhalers use the greenhouse gas hydrofluoroalkane (HFA), a liquified, compressed gas that serves as a propellant to squirt the medicine out of the pump and into the user's lungs, according to CNN. DPIs, by contrast, do not use the liquefied gas to deliver the medicine and are a safe, more affordable alternative.

"Any move towards 'greener' inhalers would need to ensure that replacements were cost effective," said Alexander Wilkinson, respiratory medicine consultant and author of the study, in a statement. "By switching to less expensive brands, we've shown that it would still be possible to make a positive impact on carbon emissions while at the same time reducing drug costs."

However, the researchers caution that patients must check with a doctor before switching to a DPI or greener alternative. Those who are not able to switch should not be made to feel guilty, the researchers told BMJ Open, as the BBC reported.

"It's important to stress that patients shouldn't stop using their usual treatments to reduce their carbon footprint," said Wilkinson in a University of Cambridge statement. "Instead we recommend patients review their condition and treatment at least annually with their healthcare professional and at this point discuss whether a more environmentally-friendly inhaler is available and appropriate in their situation."

A dugong, also called a sea cow, swims with golden pilot jacks near Marsa Alam, Egypt, Red Sea. Alexis Rosenfeld / Getty Images

In 2010, world leaders agreed to 20 targets to protect Earth's biodiversity over the next decade. By 2020, none of them had been met. Now, the question is whether the world can do any better once new targets are set during the meeting of the UN Convention on Biodiversity in Kunming, China later this year.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

President Joe Biden signs executive orders in the State Dining Room at the White House on Jan. 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

By Andrew Rosenberg

The first 24 hours of the administration of President Joe Biden were filled not only with ceremony, but also with real action. Executive orders and other directives were quickly signed. More actions have followed. All consequential. Many provide a basis for not just undoing actions of the previous administration, but also making real advances in public policy to protect public health, safety, and the environment.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Melting ice forms a lake on free-floating ice jammed into the Ilulissat Icefjord during unseasonably warm weather on July 30, 2019 near Ilulissat, Greenland. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

A first-of-its-kind study has examined the satellite record to see how the climate crisis is impacting all of the planet's ice.

Read More Show Less
Probiotic rich foods. bit245 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Ana Maldonado-Contreras

Takeaways

  • Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria that are vital for keeping you healthy.
  • Some of these microbes help to regulate the immune system.
  • New research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, shows the presence of certain bacteria in the gut may reveal which people are more vulnerable to a more severe case of COVID-19.

You may not know it, but you have an army of microbes living inside of you that are essential for fighting off threats, including the virus that causes COVID-19.

Read More Show Less
Michael Mann photo inset by Joshua Yospyn.

By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.

The New Climate War: the fight to take back our planet is the latest must-read book by leading climate change scientist and communicator Michael Mann of Penn State University.

Read More Show Less