Several international, European and national policies and initiatives exist to regulate, reduce or eliminate HCFCs and HFCs, including the UN’s Montreal Protocol, the EU’s F Gas Regulation, the UK’s Climate Change Act, and most recently the Kigali Agreement on HFCs.
In these legislative agreements, metered dose inhalers are given an explicit exemption from the emissions reduction policies, but inhalational anaesthetics are not.
However, because there is currently no viable way to recycle inhalational anaesthetic agents and they are essential for medical use, the requirements of the policies and initiatives are not currently enforced on their emissions.
Practically, this means that they are either captured on activated charcoal and sent to landfill (general practice for small consumers such as veterinary surgeries), or piped through a hospital’s extraction systems and released into the atmosphere. Either way, they end up as environmental pollutants.
Because less than 5% of inhalational agents are metabolised by the body when breathed in, a huge proportion of agent used for a surgery is exhaled unchanged and released into the atmosphere.
With increasing visibility and pressure from the EU, Australia and some quarters of the US to phase out HFCs, the lack of enforcement of inhalational agents’ emissions will inevitably come under scrutiny. Capturing all these emissions would curb the equivalent of 2.2 million tonnes of CO2 entering the atmosphere every year.
SageTech’s technology provides a solution to capture, extract and purify inhalational anaesthetic agents to reduce both the financial and the environmental cost of anaesthesia.