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Are metered dose inhalers (MDIs) contributing to climate change? British researchers estimated the impact of gases used in MDIs on air pollution. They suggest if people switched to dry powder inhalers (DPIs), it could reduce the impact on our planet.

What does this mean for people with asthma? Everyone’s asthma can be different. One medicine that works for one person may not work well for another. So some people may need MDIs to best control their asthma. Switching to an DPI may be an option for some people and not others.

What Is AAFA’s Stance on Inhalers and Climate Change?

Many news articles about this study caused a lot of concern.The focus seemed to be on the individual impact of each person's asthma on our climate. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) believes the study's findings miss the big picture.

About 3,600 people die each year from asthma. If you have asthma, continue taking your asthma medicines as advised by your doctor. Asthma can be fatal without proper treatment. If your current treatment works, switching to a new medicine may be inappropriate.

The Washington Post article titled, “No, asthma inhalers are not ‘choking the planet,” points out inhalers account for only 0.14 percent of all carbon emissions in Britain. Air pollution is a major asthma trigger, and most air pollution is caused by transportation, oil and gas refineries, agriculture, factories, power plants, wildfires and volcanoes. 

AAFA recommends focus remain on other large-scale improvements we can make to reduce carbon footprints, methane and ozone emissions. 

Having people with asthma switch inhalers will not affect climate change alone. We need larger changes to reduce air pollution. A report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that by 2025, ozone-related health effects from the oil and natural gas industry would contribute to:

  • 1,970 premature deaths
  • 39,000 individuals with upper and lower respiratory issues
  • 3,600 emergency room visits
  • 1 million asthma attacks due to the emissions

If we first improve our air quality in ways that make a big difference, we can reduce asthma rates. Lower asthma rates mean less inhaler use.

question mark diamondWhat are your thoughts on this study? Do you think individual steps or large-scale structural changes will make the most impact on reducing harmful emissions? Let us know in the comments below.

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I think it is ridiculous and insolent that our rescue inhalers were changed from cold-blast to HFAs over a decade ago to "prevent CFCs" from entering the atmosphere. Now, our rescue inhalers are being potentially attacked again, while the most obvious and gargantuan polluters, the military and the agricultural and oil industries, are allowed to continue their practices on a global scale. The diminutive puffs from inhalers, most of which end up inside of our lungs, represent but a tiny fraction of carbon pollution. These inhalers are, in catch-22 irony, necessary because of the larger causes of the disease of asthma itself: The toxic, inflammatory "food" (sugar, grains, dairy, soy) produced by agriculture; the pollution from industry and autos; the dander permeating indoor spaces because cockroaches infest tenements and pet animals are now invited indoors when that would have been unheard of a few generations ago. To target asthmatics for needing their "climate changing" rescue inhalers would be comedic in its irony... if it weren't such deadly logic!

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