Environmental Impact of Inhalers
Your respiratory care, and your inhalers, can have a big impact on your carbon footprint. Your carbon footprint is a measure of the impact your activities have on the environment. The most commonly used inhaler in the UK is the Ventolin Evohaler.
This is used for short term relief from asthma or COPD symptoms such as wheeze, breathlessness or a cough. The Ventolin Evohaler has a carbon footprint of 28kg per inhaler. This means one inhaler produces the same amount of carbon emissions as driving 175miles in a small car. This is because Pressurised metered dose inhalers (pMDI) contain propellants that are powerful greenhouse gases and which contribute to global heating.
The best way of reducing the environmental impact of inhalers is for your asthma to be well controlled.
If your asthma is well controlled, you should rarely need to use your reliever inhaler and you will only need one reliever a year.
If your asthma is well controlled, you should rarely need to use your reliever inhaler and you will only need one reliever a year. We also know that if people are using more than three reliever inhalers a year, they are more likely to have serious flare ups of their asthma that may require steroid tablets or admission to hospital to treat. If you are using your inhaler more than three times a week due to asthma symptoms, or needing more than three reliever inhalers a year, then you should book an appointment with the practice nurse to review your asthma treatment.
Switching your inhaler
Changing the type of inhaler you use could reduce your carbon footprint a lot. As a practice we will be changing to using a brand of reliever salbutamol inhaler called Salamol. This has a carbon footprint of 12Kg per inhaler which is less than half of the carbon footprint of Ventolin but is still an aerosol inhaler.
Dry powder inhalers (DPIs like Turbohalers and NEXThalers) and Soft mist inhalers (SMI) (like the Respimat device) do not use these propellants and so have substantially lower impact on climate change. We would like patients to consider if they would like their preventer inhalers changed from aerosol inhalers to dry powder inhalers and let us know at their next review.
Is a dry powder inhaler suitable for me? For the majority of patients dry powder inhalers are a very effective alternative to metered dose inhalers. They rely on a hard, fast, deep breath to disperse tiny particles of the medicine through to your lungs so not everyone can use them effectively. Most people, once shown the correct technique, can master this type of inhaler. Some people - young children, some elderly patients and those who can’t take strong breaths in - may struggle. If you do need to continue with a metered dose inhaler, make sure you use a spacer as this helps to get the medicine to your lungs more efficiently which means you often need to use fewer puffs. The practice nurses or GPs will be able to advise you further on whether you can switch inhalers safely and will be able to show you how to use them.
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