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Anaesthetic gases raising Earth's temperature too


Times of India, New Delhi, 8 April, 2015

 

Anaesthetic gases may help doctors to cause temporary loss of sensation in patients and carry out surgery smoothly, but by accumulating in the Earth's atmosphere, they also contribute to climate change, says a new study.

 

Over the past decade, concentrations of the anaesthetics desflurane, isoflurane and sevoflurane have been rising globally and the study has detected the compounds as far a field as Antarctica.

 

Like the well-known climate warmer carbon dioxide, anaesthesia gases allow the atmosphere to store more energy from the Sun, the researchers noted.

 

But unlike carbon dioxide, the medical gases are extra potent in their greenhouse-gas effects.

 

"One kilogram of desflurane, for instance, is equivalent to 2,500 kilograms of carbon dioxide in terms of the amount of greenhouse warming potential," said lead researcher Martin Vollmer, atmospheric chemist at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology in Dubendorf, Switzerland.

 

"On a kilogram-per-kilogram basis, it is so much more potent" than carbon dioxide, he said.

 

The researchers reported the 2014 atmospheric concentration of desflurane as 0.30 parts per trillion (ppt).

 

Isoflurane, sevoflurane and halothane came in at 0.097 ppt, 0.13 ppt and 0.0092 ppt, respectively.

 

The team did not include the common anaesthesia nitrous oxide in the study because it has many sources other than anaesthetics.

 

Anaesthesia gas abundance is growing and should not be overlooked, said Yale University School of Medicine anaesthesiologist Jodi Sherman, a reviewer of the study.

 

"There is nothing unique about desflurane that we cannot do with other drugs," Sherman noted.

 

She argued that it is possible to live without Desflurane . The study appeared online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.