Greener health care: Reducing the impact of anesthetic gases on the environment

Did you know that health care is responsible for 5% of global emissions?

Shockingly, if global health care was a country, it would be the fifth greatest polluter. Some of the emissions generated by health care are necessary to ensure good health, but there are many opportunities to reduce its environmental impact. A new $280,000 gift from the Trottier Family Foundation to the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) Foundation is helping the MUHC cut emissions caused by anesthetic gases.

“It is incredibly important that we reduce health care emissions while continuing to ensure excellence in care for patients. Thanks to the Trottier Family Foundation, the MUHC will be able to reduce approximately 550 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year,” says Harris Poulis, Interim President and CEO at the MUHC Foundation.

Just like we see in medical dramas, anesthesia is delivered to patients through a mask over their mouth and nose. As the patient breathes in, the anesthesia puts them to sleep. Only 5% of the gases used are absorbed by the patient. The rest—a staggering 95% —are released into the atmosphere. Not only is this a waste, the gases used for anesthesia are potent greenhouse gases.

With the support of the Trottier Family Foundation, the MUHC is piloting a new program that will tackle both carbon emissions and waste. In partnership with Ontario-based Blue-Zone Technologies, the MUHC will implement the Deltasorb© system, which recaptures unused anesthetic gases in metal canisters. The gas is then shipped to Blue-Zone Technologies, who have developed a way to prepare the gases for reuse. The MUHC’s 23 operating rooms are joining over 69,000 across North America who use Blue-Zone Technologies’ recapture system.

“Given that the climate crisis is recognized as the greatest threat to our health care system by health care professionals, we feel it is necessary to contribute to the collective effort to address this issue,” says Eric St-Pierre, Chief Executive Officer of the Trottier Family Foundation.

As the effects of climate change become more and more evident, it is essential that hospitals like the MUHC make changes to ensure a lower carbon footprint. Recognizing the importance of such initiatives, the MUHC Foundation is committed to fundraising in support of a number of green initiatives, including an electric boiler and improved recycling. With the support of the Trottier Family Foundation, we are one step closer to creating a greener MUHC.

Learn more about the MUHC’s new Deltasorb© anesthetic gas recapture system by listening to the MUHC Foundation’s podcast, Health Matters (in English):

Sooran’s story: facing a rare cancer with family by his side