The NHS in Sheffield has reduced CO2 emissions by over 100 tonnes, which is equivalent of driving a car around the world 13 times.

Due to a simple change in the asthma inhalers that GPs prescribe patients, the carbon footprint of salbutamol inhalers in the city has reduced dramatically over the last year taking the emissions from over 587 tonnes to 484 tonnes.

Salbutamol inhalers are used to treat asthma, a lung condition that affects breathing. Some inhalers known as metered-dose inhalers use a small, pressurised metal cannister to deliver the medication that the patient then breaths in that contain powerful greenhouse gases, whilst aren’t harmful to patients using the inhaler, do contribute to climate change.

Research indicates that Inhaler emissions account for approximately 3% of the NHS carbon footprint.

The reduction of harmful emissions in Sheffield was made by switching from one style of inhaler cannister to another that emits over 50% less CO2.

Dr Zak McMurray, Medical Director and Sustainability Lead at NHS South Yorkshire in Sheffield, explains: “At COP 27 this week, one of the topics being discussed is reducing emissions. Reducing our carbon footprint is a priority in Sheffield, and we have a plan for providing green health care wherever possible. We have worked closely with GP practices, encouraging them to prescribe a different type of inhaler than emits less greenhouse gases. The medicine in each inhaler is the same and patients use the inhalers in the same way so there is no change for patients in this respect.

“Our medicines optimisation team have supported practices with this switch. We’d like to thank practices and patients for being on board with this scheme. It’s already had a massive impact in the reduction of harmful gases.”

If you’re an inhaler user, you can help reduce the carbon footprint further by taking your used inhalers to your local pharmacy to be disposed of properly. Even after an inhaler is finished, it still contains environmentally damaging gases.

Don’t throw used inhalers into your household waste or recycling bins. Landfill disposal of inhalers is harmful to the environment due to left over gases being released into the atmosphere. Plastics from inhalers cannot be recycled using domestic recycling schemes but pharmacies will make sure they are destroyed in an environmentally friendly way.

Dr McMurray continues: “Please be assured these gases are not harmful to you when you use your inhaler but are very harmful to the environment and are contributing to the warming of the planet. If you have concerns about the environmental impact of your inhaler, make an appointment with your GP practice to speak about it. Please don’t stop using your inhaler.”

Inhalers can be taken to any community pharmacy for safe disposal. Watch the short video below for more details.