Cambridge U reports claim asthma medication causes harmful carbon emissions

November 1, 2019

Asthma patients in the UK currently number some 5.4 million, with most relying on inhalers to counter the potentially fatal effects of air pollution, which could exacerbate symptoms. Inhalers release medicine straight into an asthma sufferer’s lungs, to quickly relax the muscles surrounding their airways and facilitate easy breathing. However, a recent report by UK’s Cambridge University, found that seven out of every 10 inhalers prescribed contain greenhouse gases – these metered-dose inhalers that account for nearly 4% of National Health Service (NHS) greenhouse gas emissions, which tracks health statistics in the UK.

Even though asthma medication may cause the same quantity of carbon emissions as eating meat, climate change activists, medical professionals and asthma sufferers have rallied against the unfair condemnation of those who need to use the life-saving medication. It echoes the dispute surrounding the ban on plastic drinking straws, especially needed by some disabled people.

Alexandria Villaseñor, a 14-year-old climate justice activist tweeted: “My inhaler worsens climate change – I should know “how many doses I have left so I don’t waste any” and “dispose of it properly because it’s got greenhouse gases left in it”. Rather than having the corporations producing the medication account for the carbon footprint left by inhalers, it is particularly shameful to guilt individuals who have no choice but to use it.

Meanwhile, experts think that a more environmentally-friendly type of inhaler would reduce carbon emissions by 58 kilotonnes, the equivalent of 180,000 return car journeys from London, UK, to Edinburgh, Scotland.

Jessica Kirby, Head of Health Advice at Asthma UK, says the move provides some complex difficulties to asthma patients: “We recognise the need to protect the environment, but switching to a different type of inhaler can be complicated for people with asthma, so it should only be done with expert guidance.” She said that using inhalers as prescribed ensures proper delivery of medicine and reduces the chances of side effects. But do discuss with your GP or asthma nurse if you are concerned about the environmental effects. GPs, too, advise asthma patients to be cautious when approaching highly polluted areas and keep up with routine checks to prevent unnecessary asthma episodes.

Category: Features, Top Story

Comments are closed.