The impact of inhalers on the environment: a new review

A summary of a review article published in the European Respiratory Journal

Climate change is impacting our planet and health. All aspects of our lives can affect climate change and this includes the medicines we use. Research suggests that many people with asthma and COPD have concerns about the environmental impact of inhalers.  You may share these concerns and this article talks about the types of inhalers and the impacts they can have.

Choosing the right inhaler for you is personal. You should always prioritise your own health and be comfortable with the inhaler you use.


How do inhalers impact the environment?

A kind of inhaler, known as a pressurised metered dose inhaler, can cause damage to our planet. It uses propellants to create a spray of medicine for a person to inhale. While these propellants are safe for an individual, they are a greenhouse gas. In large amounts, greenhouse gases can cause our planet to heat up. With so many inhalers used every day, this is something we need to be aware of. A new review has aimed to assess this impact and what this means for people using inhalers.

What did the review find?

The review summarised the evidence on the impact of the most used inhalers around the world.

It found clear differences in the environmental impact of inhalers. All dry powder inhalers and soft mist inhalers had a much lower environmental impact than pressurised metered dose inhalers. These inhalers all deliver the same medicine but use a different method. Dry powder and soft mist inhalers work well for lots of people, but not everyone.

The review also highlights other factors that could help reduce the impact on the environment. For example, if people follow their correct dose of asthma control medicine, they can reduce the need to take rescue medicine. Rescue medicine is often delivered by pressurised metered dose inhalers.

Why is this important?

We all need to make changes in lots of ways to stop the impact of climate change. Considering which inhaler type to use is one way that some of us can contribute.

There are many factors to consider when a person and healthcare professional choose the right inhaler. The first factor should always be how well the inhaler works at delivering the medicine and whether a person can use it. The findings from this review may help people who want to choose an inhaler that has less of an impact on the environment.

The companies that make inhalers can also use the review to help plan for the development of future inhalers that lower the impact on the environment.

Read the original research paper

Title: The environmental impact of inhaled therapy: making informed treatment choices