Purpose of review
Pollution and global warming/climate change contribute to one-quarter of all deaths worldwide. Global healthcare as a whole is the world's fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and anesthetic gases, intravenous agents and supplies contribute significantly to the overall problem. It is the ethical obligation of all anesthesiologists to minimize the harmful impact of anesthesia practice on environmental sustainability.
Focused programs encouraging judicious selection of the use of anesthetic gas agents has been shown to reduce CO2 equivalent emissions by 64%, with significant cost savings. Good gas flow management reduces nonscavenged anesthetic gas significantly, and has been shown to decrease the consumption of volatile anesthetic agent by about one-fifth. New devices may allow for recapture, reclamation and recycling of waste anesthetic gases. For propofol, a nonbiodegradable, environmentally toxic agent, simply changing the size of vials on formulary has been shown to reduce wasted agent by 90%.
The 5 R's of waste minimization in the operating room (OR) (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rethink and Research) have proven benefit in reducing the environmental impact of the practice of anesthesiology, as well as in reducing costs.