Leave No GHG Behind – Send an online letter to Parliament Hill

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Most surgeries use either Desflurane or Sevoflurane to provide anaesthesia. These volatile anaesthetic gases escape into the atmosphere after surgery. They are well-documented greenhouse gases.

Notably, Desflurane has a much greater carbon footprint. Desflurane is 26.8 times more potent than Sevoflurane as a greenhouse gas!  There is no clinical difference in mortality or morbidity outcomes of patients between the two types of anaesthetics.

As a way of comparison, using Desflurane for a seven-hour operation in one operating room is about the same as driving over 2000 km in an average small car in Canada,  while using Sevoflurane is about the same as driving 45 km.        

Health Sciences North in Sudbury, Ontario, removed Desflurane from the hospital’s formulary.  After they made the change, the greenhouse gas emissions went down by 723 tonnes in 2020 compared to 2016.  Of note, 723 tonnes is equivalent to driving a small car to the moon and back 4 times!

With such a dramatic difference in carbon footprints, this is an ideal situation for pollution pricing. At the April 2022 price of $50 per tonne, the carbon price on a bottle of Desflurane would be $44.70, while the carbon price for Sevoflurane would be $2.47. Pricing pollution from volatile anaesthetics will force hospitals to eliminate the use of Desflurane. This will save hospitals money (Desflurane is more expensive), not compromise patient care, and significantly reduce the carbon footprint of operating rooms across Canada.

The recent IPCC data is very clear that there is only a narrow window of opportunity to avert climate catastrophe. 

We must leave no greenhouse gas behind.

Thus, we kindly ask that the
Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and the Ministry of Health work together to add all volatile anaesthetic gases to the Greenhouse Gas Inventory, and then apply the carbon price to them. This will drastically reduce the use of the extremely potent greenhouse gas Desflurane.