More Environmentally Friendly Medicines: Less Propellant in Asthma Sprays

Inhalers such as asthma sprays, which are commonly used for lung conditions, pollute the environment through their propellants. The health scientist and physician Dr. Guido Schmiemann from the University of Bremen wants to raise awareness among physicians and nurses about alternatives.

The health scientist and general practitioner Dr. Guido Schmiemann has prepared a guideline on prescribing climate-friendly inhalers for the German College of General Practitioners and Family Physicians (DEGAM). The guideline is intended for decision-makers and inhaler users in the health-care sector, including practices, pharmacies, and clinics, to highlight the fact that their prescriptions have a large impact on the sector’s carbon footprint.
Inhaled medications are generally categorized as either metered-dose inhalers, which contain propellants, and dry powder inhalers. Propellants in the sprays, which are commonly used to treat lung conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), have “a major negative impact on the climate,” says Dr. Schmiemann. “We have climate-friendly alternatives available in the form of so-called dry powder inhalers. Switching to a climate-friendly prescription is possible in many cases, representing an easy way to reduce the carbon footprint of the health-care sector. That’s what our guideline is designed to help achieve.”

Health Care Accounts for a Large Share of Carbon Dioxide Emissions

The health-care sector is responsible for around five percent of carbon emissions in Germany. In other countries, health-care systems contribute between four percent (Great Britain) and ten percent (United States) of emissions. At family practices, medicine prescriptions are the largest contributor to the carbon footprint, followed by emissions from mobility (patients and staff) and heating. Schmiemann emphasizes that the savings potential for medicines alone is therefore very high. “For comparison: if a person were prescribed dry powder inhalers instead of propellant inhalers for a year, the saving would be the equivalent of a short-haul flight.”

Climate Change Increases Respiratory Diseases

In addition, climate change and the associated high levels of particulate matter prompt the development of chronic respiratory diseases. Asthma and COPD are already among the most common diseases today – and the trend is rising. Different types of inhaled medications are used to treat these conditions, which contribute to climate change in varying degrees.

Additional Information:


PD Dr. Guido Schmiemann, MPH
Institute for Public Health and Nursing Research (IPP)
Department 1: Department for Health Services Research
University of Bremen
Email: schmiemannprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de
Tel.: +49 421 218-68815

[Translate to English:] Arzt hält im Patientengespräch Asthmasprays in der Hand
Inhalers such as asthma sprays, which are commonly used for lung conditions, pollute the environment through their propellants