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Interior Health captures gases in Kamloops pilot project to lower carbon footprint

Waste anesthetic gases are being recaptured to help both the hospital environment and Earth
Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops has been the pilot location for a project aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of Interior Health operations. (Kamloops This Week photo)

Royal Inland Hospital (RIH) is piloting a project Interior Health (IH) has undertaken to reduce their carbon footprint, with hopes to implement the change across IH.

For three years, the Kamloops hospital has been implementing changes to collect the anesthetic gases used in surgeries.

While perhaps not a well-known contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, the anesthetics are apparently potent sources.

IH reports only five per cent of anesthetic gas is usually metabolized by the body during surgery, so the remaining 95 per cent is simply exhausted from the operating room and building.

“Until the anesthetic gas recovery project, our emissions reduction strategy had been focused primarily on our buildings’ systems,” said Lorne Sisley, corporate director, facilities management and operations in a release.

“But when we started looking more closely at emissions from our operations, we noted anesthetic gases have a disproportionately high greenhouse gas emissions level. This new recovery technology will be one more step toward reducing our overall carbon footprint.”

With all 11 operating rooms at RIH now recapturing the waste gases, it adds up to the equivalent of 221 to 280 passenger vehicles off the road in on year, according to IH.

Blue-Zone Technologies of Concord, Ontario is the company IH is working with for the pilot project, with up to 100 per cent of the anesthetic gases recovered in canisters.

The gases are then liquified and turned into generic anesthetic gas through distillation.

“This technology offers additional economic and supply benefits for hospitals, and also protects our health-care staff, communities and environment from the impact of anesthetic gases,” said Amanda McKenzie, manager of environmental sustainability at Interior Health and project lead.

With 80 more operating rooms across IH, the impact of the new system could eventually be significant.

Sisley said IH is looking at this system in other locations, while also looking at changing to anesthetic gases with lower emissions profiles as well.

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