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Year : 2011  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 5-10

Anesthetic gases and global warming: Potentials, prevention and future of anesthesia

Department of Anesthesiology, M.P. Shah Medical College, Jamnagar, Gujarat, India

Correspondence Address:
Hina Gadani
501, Sumeru Residency, Opp. Manusmruti Apartment, Palace Road, Jamnagar, Gujarat - 361 008
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0259-1162.84171

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Global warming refers to an average increase in the earth's temperature, which in turn causes changes in climate. A warmer earth may lead to changes in rainfall patterns, a rise in sea level, and a wide range of impacts on plants, wildlife, and humans. Greenhouse gases make the earth warmer by trapping energy inside the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are any gas that absorbs infrared radiation in the atmosphere and include: water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), methane (CH 4 ), nitrous oxide (N 2 O), halogenated fluorocarbons (HCFCs), ozone (O 3 ), perfluorinated carbons (PFCs), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Hazardous chemicals enter the air we breathe as a result of dozens of activities carried out during a typical day at a healthcare facility like processing lab samples, burning fossil fuels etc. We sometimes forget that anesthetic agents are also greenhouse gases (GHGs). Anesthetic agents used today are volatile halogenated ethers and the common carrier gas nitrous oxide known to be aggressive GHGs. With less than 5% of the total delivered halogenated anesthetic being metabolized by the patient, the vast majority of the anesthetic is routinely vented to the atmosphere through the operating room scavenging system. The global warming potential (GWP) of a halogenated anesthetic is up to 2,000 times greater than CO 2 . Global warming potentials are used to compare the strength of different GHGs to trap heat in the atmosphere relative to that of CO 2 . Here we discuss about the GWP of anesthetic gases, preventive measures to decrease the global warming effects of anesthetic gases and Xenon, a newer anesthetic gas for the future of anesthesia.

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