Anesthetics That Could Put Us Asleep Permanently

Modern anesthesia makes critical operations possible that few humans could survive otherwise. But according to a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, some of the numbing agents we breathe may also be significant contributors to global warming.

Halogenated gases released as a result of putting people to sleep before surgery such as isoflurane, sevoflurane and desflurane are increasing in the atmosphere. And they are far more potent in their greenhouse potential than CO2. Desflurane, for example, is 2,500 times as powerful a greenhouse gas as CO2.

In the study’s abstract, the authors point out that the gasses “evaporate almost completely to the atmosphere.” And “from urban areas to the pristine Antarctic environment, we detect a rapid accumulation and ubiquitous presence.”

As anesthetics, they are remarkably expensive, so it may be surprising to discover that they are not recaptured by modern hospital equipment, but instead are allowed to escape.

Halothane, another very potent greenhouse anesthetic tracked in the study, has actually declined since 2000 as country after country has banned it because it damages the liver.

To a bright future,

Stephen Petranek
for Seven Figure Publishing

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Stephen Petranek

Stephen Petranek’s career of over 40 years in the publishing world is marked by numerous prizes and awards for excellent writing on science, nature, technology, politics, economics and more. He has been editor-in-chief of the Miami Herald’s prestigious Sunday magazine, Tropic, and has covered a wide range of topics for Time Inc.’s Life magazine. His...

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