Operating rooms generate 20–30 percent of total hospital waste. Inhaled anesthetics are potent greenhouse gases. Many anesthesia equipment and facility design choices can have significant environmental impact.
According to a study from the University of Chicago, the health care sector accounts for 8 percent of the United States total greenhouse gas emissions.1 The investigators took into account the contribution generated by hospital activities, research and the production and distribution of pharmaceuticals. The analysis found that hospitals by far were the largest contributors of carbon emissions. Although the findings are worrisome, they suggest that greener health care delivery will have a large positive impact on our environment.
The Committee on Equipment and Facilities is advocating for increased environmental consciousness in our practices and the facilities in which we work. Physician anesthesiologists can lead by improving operating room design, anesthetic agent choice and management, and waste disposal and diversion, and can mitigate the negative environmental effect of anesthetic practice in all its forms. Like other industries, the environmental impact of our practice, if left unchecked, could trigger government regulation. Physician anesthesiologists, surgeons and health care administrators are best positioned to reduce the negative impact our practice has on the environment by proactively examining these issues. Physician anesthesiologists have an opportunity, through education and research, to lead the development of hospital initiatives that foster environmentally friendly policies and programs.2
Greening the Operating Room - Full Documents
Curated by The Committee on Equipment and Facilities
1. Chung JW, Meltzer DO. Estimate of the carbon footprint of the US Health Care Sector. JAMA. 2009;302:1970–72.
2. This document has been developed by the ASA Committee on Equipment and Facilities but has not been reviewed or approved as a practice parameter or policy statement by the ASA House of Delegates. Variances from recommendations contained in this document may be acceptable based on the judgment of the responsible physician anesthesiologist. The recommendations are designed to encourage quality patient care and safety in the workplace but cannot guarantee a specific outcome. They are subject to revision from time to time as warranted by the availability of new information.