Anesthetic: as it puts you out, it puts out into the atmosphere too, B.C.-led study shows

Click to play video: 'Hospital carbon footprint'
Hospital carbon footprint
WATCH: John Hua has a story about how the Vancouver General Hospital has launched a program to capture ozone destroying emissions created in the operating room – Dec 9, 2017

It’s difficult to think about your impact on the atmosphere as anesthetic is starting to sap your consciousness away.

But a new study out of The Lancet shows that putting you out also means putting out lots of emissions into the atmosphere.

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The study, which was led by Andrea MacNeill, a surgeon at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), looked at the effects of health care on the environment — specifically, how many greenhouse gas emissions facilities like hospitals generate, and how they can be reduced.

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It examined the carbon footprint of operating theatres in three health systems — one of them being the operating room at VGH.

The Lancet study found that anesthetic gas accounted for 63 per cent of the carbon footprint in the operating room there, compared to 51 per cent at the University of Minnesota Medical Center and four per cent at the U.K.’s Radcliffe Hospital.

READ MORE: Canada’s climate change framework needs to be big deal in 2018: advocates

“It means that surgeries are approximately equal to 2 million cars on the road every year,” MacNeill said.

VGH has already defaulted to using a less environmentally harmful anesthetic gas that’s being used in the U.K.

Anesthesiologist Mitch Giffin was worried that it would be difficult to switch, but “I found that actually that wasn’t really the case.

There are plans to install anesthetic gas capturing technology in 16 new operating rooms at VGH, and that will mean any trace of those emissions will be knocked out.

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“Really, it would be shortsighted and foolish of us not to pursue some of those opportunities,” said Shelly Fleck, operations director at VGH.

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