Sharon Pfleger (Consultant in Pharmaceutical Public Health, NHS Highland) published an article “Anaesthesia – is it really pain free for the environment?” with the Association of Anaesthetists, about the environmental impact of medicines used for anaesthesia.
The article explains that pharmaceuticals used in anaesthesia and across healthcare have a clear potential to harm the environment in terms of toxicity, persistence and bio-accumulation. Medicines such as lidocaine, diclofenac, propofol, ketamine and pyridostigmine have been detected in the environment and were associated with adverse effects on non-target organisms including changes in bacterial communities, organ damage in fish, and toxicity to other organisms.
But despite the scientific evidence, the development of policy and appropriate regulations can take decades for an impact on practice. Although the NHS has developed net zero targets regarding carbon emissions, the need for net zero pollution and net zero harm to biodiversity should be prioritised. We all rely on the environment for ecosystem services – everything from our food and water and physical and mental wellbeing to the economy and culture is impacted by the state of the environment.
The article calls for increased awareness by anaesthetists and clinicians on the environmental impact of current healthcare practices. There is a need to balance clinical effectiveness, patient need, and protecting nature.
The OHBP is working to improve sustainability in healthcare and reduce the environmental impact from pharmaceutical pollution through upstream approaches – following a “realistic medicines” agenda, investigating eco-directed prescribing, and educating the public and clinicians on this issue.
You can find the article here: https://anaesthetists.org/Home/Resources-publications/Anaesthesia-News-magazine/Anaesthesia-News-Digital-February-2022/Anaesthesia-is-it-really-pain-free-for-the-environment