Mountain and Pestle Pharmacy has partnered with the Kimberley Medical Clinic to raise awareness on the impacts certain inhalers used to treat common conditions like asthma or chronic lung disease can have on the environment.
It’s been shown that traditional L-shaped inhalers use an aerosol propellant to deliver medication to the lungs. These propellants are greenhouse gases that trap heat nearly 1500 to 3600 times better than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.
“Using one inhaler can have the same environmental impact as driving 139-290 kilometres,” said a release from Kimberley’s Dr. Ilona Hale. “In primary care, these ‘metered-dose inhalers’ account for an astonishing 13 per cent of all the greenhouse gases we produce – that’s the same as the environmental cost of heating our clinics.”
Fortunately there are alternatives, namely dry powder inhalers, which are bullet or disc shaped, that have a far smaller impact — using one is more equivalent to driving six to seven kilometres.
“These work just as well and in some cases better, are actually easier to use and have other benefits such as dose counters,” Hale said. “It is important to know that even though the aerosol in the traditional puffers is bad for the environment, it is not harmful for the individuals using them – the aerosol just carries the medicine into the lungs and then is breathed out again.”
Making the switch from a metered dose to using dry powder inhalers is an easy way for prescribers to lower carbon footprints.
Mountain and Pestle Pharmacy and the Kimberley Medical Clinic are hosting an awareness campaign for the proper disposal of these inhalers. Until the end of September, if you return your metered-dose inhaler to the pharmacy you will be given a ballot for prizes for local restaurants and other businesses. You can get one ballot for each inhaler returned.
This release indicated that Kimberley’s doctors and pharmacists have begun to let their patients know about the options available to make the switch from older puffer types, with many unaware that their metered-dose inhalers were harmful to the environment, or that other options were available.
It’s also good to know whether you actually require an inhaler or not, as sometimes people who think they have asthma, discover they don’t when they get properly tested. Sometimes it turns out to be other diagnoses like anxiety, acid reflux or just de-conditioning, but sometimes it turns out to be no diagnosis at all, as the individual has grown out of their asthma but continue to take their medicine.
“For chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), 67 per cent of people haven’t been properly tested,” Hale said. “This is important, not only because people may be using inhalers unnecessarily but because there may be another diagnosis. If you are using an inhaler, talk to your health care provider to ensure you still need it and whether you might be able to switch.”
Not everyone is able to use dry-powder inhalers, as very deep breath is required to activate them, so it may not be suitable for pre-schoolers, very elderly patients, or people with advanced lung disease. It is important to visit with your healthcare provider to make sure you can make the switch.