Trouble breathing? Your inhaler makes it worse
Pharma companies now acting to reduce pollution causing drug propellants.
(A native of England, Matthew Diebel is a veteran journalist who has worked at NBC News, Time, USA Today and News Corp., among other organizations. Having spent his childhood next to one of the world's fastest bodies of water, he is particularly interested in tidal energy.)
Is pollution adding to your breathing woes? Or even causing it? Then it can’t be comforting to learn that the inhaler you use is contributing considerably to greenhouse gases.
For instance, the propellant vapors from inhalers from just one company, U.K.-based AstraZeneca (AZN), contribute around 800,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually, with indirect emissions from supplier activities and the use of its medicines have increased by 15% over the past two years as sales have climbed, according to a company report.
Now, however, they are doing something about it. The company just announced they are working with Honeywell International (HON) to develop a new line of devices that use a propellant with near-zero climate impact.
The problem stems from the fact that many patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease use inhalers that contain hydrofluorocarbons to propel the medicine into the lungs and open their airways. That gas, which has also been used for decades in refrigerators and air conditioners, is hundreds of times more warming, ton for ton, than carbon dioxide.
AstraZeneca, meanwhile, is not alone: another Britain-based pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), announced last year that it also is working to reduce toxic fumes from its inhalers, which the company said were responsible for a whopping 45% of its carbon emissions.
“We must redouble our collective efforts to address climate change and nature loss,” said GSK CEO Emma Walmsley late last year in a company statement, “and that’s why I’m delighted with the new steps we are announcing today.”
And we’re breathing a sigh of relief.