Reply to 'Anesthetic gases raise Earth’s temperature (a little) while you sleep'

Guest essay by Charles G. Battig, M.D.

anesthetic-gasesEarlier today, WUWT carried a press releaseAnesthetic gases raise Earth’s temperature (a little) while you sleep (7 April 2015) according to the online Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. “The gases used to knock out surgery patients are accumulating in the Earth’s atmosphere, where they make a small contribution to climate change, report scientists who have detected the compounds as far afield as Antarctica.” They note that:Carbon dioxide – which hit 400 parts per million in 2014 -is a billion times more abundant than the most prevalent of these anesthetics,” but the authors are already worrying about the (“small”) climate impacts, and want your doctor to be worried as well.

The paper contains such gems as: “Like the well-known climate warmer carbon dioxide, anesthesia gases allow the atmosphere to store more energy from the Sun.” Evidently, the GRU has a new take on the “greenhouse effect.”

Their detection of these errant molecules of various halogenated ether anesthetic gases in the atmosphere is now to be taken into account by your anesthesiologist, and subordinated to such traditional medical considerations as your age, health, pre-existing disease, cardio-pulmonary status, the nature of the surgical procedure, and your own preference for general or regional anesthesia.

Jodi Sherman, MD, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology & Environmental Compliance Officer Yale University, School of Medicine appears to have fully embraced the elevation of sustainability as a necessary concern of physicians.

She is listed as contributor to a webinar produced by Practice Greenhealth webinar. The infiltration of “sustainability” dogma into medical practice (“The Progressive’s Stone: Sustainability”) is evident by the webinar statement: “OR [operating room] physician and nursing leadership are critical to move the Greening the OR Initiative forward until a culture of sustainability has permeated the OR staff mindset. In this session, we propose strategies for including, recruiting, and possibly mandating anesthesiologist, surgeon, and nurse conservation efforts…(Practice Greenhealth webinar October 2012).” “Mandating” conservation, but not good medical outcomes…Sustainability in the ecologically correct operating room, or else? Physician and patient be aware, maybe even be afraid.

Sherman admonishes that: “Anesthesia gases are something that the health care industry can easily do something about.” Well we could just go back to a swig of whiskey and “bite the bullet” era of pseudo-anesthesia. Shall those women eased through childbirth with whiffs of nitrous oxide be held guilty for environmental sin? The term “health care industry” is offensive in itself, and demonstrates a denigration of all those who have chosen to pursue care of the sick, as the sustainabilists reduce all to the common denominator of industrial cog.

Having retired from practiced as a board certified anesthesiologist in both university and private settings; I recoil at the thought of the imposition of additional, non-patient centered concerns to the clinician’s provision of safe and patient-appropriate anesthetic care. There is enough uncertainty and unexpected medical catastrophe lurking each time a patient is put to sleep, without being burdened by molecular climate theory. My experience brackets the use of ether and cyclopropane anesthetics (highly flammable) to the halogenated ethers mentioned above, as well as the ubiquitous nitrous oxide. I must now bear the burden of all those errant molecules let loose upon the environment during the provision of a safe and pain-free surgical experience to my patients over the decades.

Advertisements

68 thoughts on “Reply to 'Anesthetic gases raise Earth’s temperature (a little) while you sleep'

  1. oh for crying out loud…….Jodi is obviously not getting the attention she thinks she deserves

  2. Having retired from practiced as a board certified anesthesiologist in both university and private settings; I recoil at the thought of the imposition of additional, non-patient centered concerns to the clinician’s provision of safe and patient-appropriate anesthetic care. There is enough uncertainty and unexpected medical catastrophe lurking each time a patient is put to sleep, without being burdened by molecular climate theory.

    That’s what God gave you a middle finger for. Don’t be afraid to use it.
    Here’s an instruction sheet: http://www.maxphoton.com/digitization/

    • I believe it was President Bush the elder who traveled outside of the USA after leaving office, upon encountering some adoring crowds he remarked; “Sure is nice to see folks waving at me with all their fingers again”. Har har har.
      Cheers, KevinK.

  3. sounds to me like Jodi Sherman wants to get rid of the cheaper gas method to help provide jobs for her field.
    iirc, and correct me if wrong please, IV methods cost a lot more than gas methods.

    • I came across the mention of this about 3?yrs ago at least, on pharma sites.
      another way to bump the prices and restrict access further was my thought then and now
      and yeah IV alternates, more cost for patients etc
      and dont forget animal use, people already struggle to pay bills or animals dont get treatment they need, how much more grief can the cause if Idiots like this sheila got their way?

      • Go back to the Elizabethan methods: wooden mallets.
        Typo: “from practiced as” – practice

  4. Can we all at least agree that the alarmists have done an absolutely spectacular job inculcating ‘educated’ people with arrant nonsense? Modern propaganda techniques are so incredibly powerful.
    Credit where credit is doo.

  5. The term “health care industry” is offensive in itself…

    It seems that everyone is being lumped into an “industry” or a “community” these days. I’ve seen reference to the “climate denier industry.”
    I sincerely hope this insanity isn’t sustainable.

  6. Look, when I’m told I have a hernia in my nether regions and need to be cut and pasted, I’ll go for the anesthesia every time (only once so far).
    Give me a trees seedling to plant on the way out the door, and we’ll call it even.

    • But didn’t we just recently learn that trees are contributing to CO2? Maybe if we anesthetize the trees?

  7. Finally. Finally, I can make a comment on this blog about something I actually know something about. (And you didn’t think it was possible, did you?) You see, I actually did have an operative procedure without anesthesia. No, it wasn’t open heart surgery where I was looking at an overhead mirror and directing the doctors to fix the damn thing. I’m not quite that tough.
    No, it was an endoscopy. Normal procedure for an endoscopy is to spray some anesthesizing fluid down one’s neck tube thingy, have one gargle, and then swallow it. I think, if doctors had a shred of decency about them, they’d use Plymouth gin for that. But no, they have to use this mint flavored crap. Anyway, this is normally followed by a sedative, and herein lies the rub.
    You see, these sadists absolutely will not let you drive home following that sedative. Since the number of friends your’s truly has is boundless it stands to reason I couldn’t find a single soul to drive me home. I pleaded with the doctors, begged, pulled out a wad of fifties. All to no avail. Well, isn’t there a hotel nearby? Can’t I take a cab?
    No, no, and no. But there was an option. I could do it without the sedative. So, I gave my consent. I mean, how hard could it be; having something the size of a garden hose threaded down your throat?
    Well, let me tell you. After gargling and swallowing that minty fluid (and vainly trying to imagine it was gin) one of the nurses grabbed both my hands. Nothing, nothing tells you you are in trouble more than when a nurse grabs your hands to comfort you. Not one hand. No, both of them.
    And down my throat the garden hose camera went. Those who used to drink to excess in their youth will recognize what I am about to describe. Remember drinking too much and the room starts the goddam spinning? The queasy stomach? Enduring this until you think to yourself enough is enough? So with great fortitude you march over to the toilet, and mustering all your inebriated strength, you stick the finger down the throat. As many times as necessary until the night’s festivities find their way into the porcelain god.
    Now, picture doing this, not while you’re really drunk, no, while you’re sober and feeling everything. And, not with a finger, no, with a garden hose. And, not just in the mouth cavity. No, aaaall the way down.
    My one hope in life; my one prayer; my one request is that General Sherman reads what I just wrote.

    • BUMMER! Note to self: Don’t tell them I am driving myself home.
      Seriously, Tom, thank you for that — good to know! (in case…)
      Hope you are DRAWING and doing some tinkering on the ol’ engine… .
      Take care,
      Janice

      • Hi Janice. Actually no, I haven’t done any tinkering on the old car yet. The weather hasn’t been agreeable. Best wishes to you. And, if they try to ban NO2 bottles from our cars, well, it’s time to take matters into our own hands.

      • (And another great gas)
        Just for a little inspiration, Tom …
        “World’s Fastest NO2 Drag Radial Car” (youtube)

        GooooooOOOOOOOOOOooooo, Tom J!
        NO2 FOREVER!!!
        #(:))

    • Tom J – please feel free to comment and to your wish, here’s her address.
      Drop her a line

      Jodi Sherman, MD, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology & Environmental Compliance Officer
      Yale University, School of Medicine
      jodisherman@yahoo.com
      Jodi Sherman is an Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology at Yale University, School of Medicine. She is also the Environmental Compliance Officer of perioperative services at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Dr. Sherman is a nationally recognized speaker and author in the emerging field of sustainability in anesthesia. Her research interest is in life-cycle assessment of anesthetic practices.

      • Words fail me in regards to a doctor of that nature. A doctor’s first and primary concern is their patient. A doctor who abandons that solemn obligation in preference to a fad is not a doctor I care to know. Moreover, following the doctor’s primary concern towards their patient their next concern is easing any suffering of that patient. I’ve had quite a bit of experience with doctors and it is my feeling that the genuinely good ones would never subscribe to the garbage that oozes from General Sherman’s mouth.

      • Sorry Bubba Cow, I hope I wasn’t too much over the top in my reply. Thank you for the info. Maybe I should forward my thoughts.

      • missed your comment while I was doing same
        There are times when over the top is all we’ve got.
        I live in Vermont – that’s pretty much all over the top these days.

      • I shall be avoiding that hospital. Probably just avoid New haven, too – just in case.

    • ” No, it wasn’t open heart surgery where I was looking at an overhead mirror and directing the doctors to fix the damn thing. I’m not quite that tough.”
      Your line cracked me up. I was reminded of a line from “A Year in Provence” by Peter Mayle, which goes,
      “The sound of Vivaldi from the barn was replaced by a few
      seconds of electronic hissing, followed by the shrieks of a man undergoing heart
      surgery without anesthetic: Little Richard was inviting us to get down and boogie”

  8. Surgery without anesthesia??!!!

    Goal: Scare people into backing the Enviroprofiteers’ windmill/solar sc@ms. {Because if we do enough of that sort of thing, we can still, (ah, heave a big sigh of relief) have anesthesia during our surgery.}
    All based on a big fat L1E (about CO2 emissions).
    Disgusting.

    • Also, this promotes a way to staunch the bleeding of the certain-death costs of Government Medicine (a.k.a. “Obamacare” — bankrupt from its conception). “Okay, serf. Roll over.” Nurse Ratchet plunges the hypodermic in deftly and…. voila! “In a few minutes doctor will be in to perform your appendectomy. Yes, right here — the operating room is booked 2 years out and you can’t wait that long. You can watch it on that monitor over there if you like. No. If you want general anesthesia, you’ll have to go to Mexico.” Whisks out the door to take the catheter out of the guy in Room 223 Bed 1 and put it into Room 229 Bed 2 (in the “village” we all share…. because….. we’re out of everything!!!!).

  9. I hate to make this point so late after the first thread but this is REALLY important,
    .. N2O, (the fourth biggest GHG after water vapor, CO2, and Methane) comes almost exclusively, like 99.99% , from …
    … the breakdown of Nitrogen fertilizer applied to farmland. Microbes in the soil itself will eventually take the Nitrogen fertilizer and convert it to N2O and it leaks back to the atmosphere.
    We are NOT going to stop applying Nitrogen fertilizer.
    N20 is rising in the atmosphere at the same rate as CO2 but it is not adding to the Greenhouse Effect in a meaningful way since it is still in a limited level but it is something to take into account.
    If one is talking about “Other” anesthesic gases other than N2O, I’m sure these are completely undetectable.
    This is a FAKE story about Nitrogen fertilizer masquerading as anesthesia.

    • Thank you, Bill Illis! (it WAS kind of weird to be talking about “gas” anesthetics — I have only seen IV anesthesia used in my limited experience with surgeries of people I know).
      dmacleo makes a good point about gas v. IV anesthetics above, here: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/04/09/reply-to-anesthetic-gases-raise-earths-temperature-a-little-while-you-sleep/#comment-1902220
      When I read it I thought, “If Sherman is talking about the U.S…. why is she talking about ‘gas’ anesthetics? That would seem to be some other country, maybe where socialized medicine has long ago impoverished the healthcare system… .”

      • One should also note that N2O dissolves readily in (rain) water [0.57L NO2 to 1L of water. The BS about 120 years residence time in the atmosphere for this piddling amount of gas is a joke. They aren’t interested in the fertilizer and bacterial generation of N2O only the man made stuff. We can’t make bacteria feel guilty. Interesting that all the ‘cures’ for warming are one way or another to kill off people.

    • Actually its worse than that. Your figures describe the human contribution to nitrous oxide emissions but the fact is natural processes produce at least 60% of global emissions. Natural biological processes result in large emissions which have been inadequately studied. Natural sources include bacterial action in soil, the decomposition of animal manure and grass and forest fires. In fact the only way to stop these emissions is to eradicate all life on the planet.

      • Natural biological processes result in large emissions which have been inadequately studied.

        Where best to find the next environmental bogeyman than in areas they know little about. I’m familiar with the nitrogen cycle, but had not heard much about man-made N2O from fertilizer being a problem (maybe I’m not as familiar with the nitrogen cycle as I thought). So did a little Yahoo!-ing (I don’t use G**gle), and found this article:
        http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/04/02/fertilizer-use-responsible-for-increase-in-nitrous-oxide-in-atmosphere/
        Of course, it’s from Berkeley. Brief quote from article:

        Changes in fertilizer use can reduce N2O emissions
        Limiting nitrous oxide emissions could be part of a first step toward reducing all greenhouse gases and lessening global warming, Boering said, especially since immediately reducing global carbon dioxide emissions is proving difficult from a political standpoint. In particular, reducing nitrous oxide emissions can initially offset more than its fair share of greenhouse gas emissions overall, since N2O traps heat at a different wavelength than CO2 and clogs a “window” that allows Earth to cool off independent of CO2 levels.
        “On a pound for pound basis, it is really worthwhile to figure how to limit our emissions of N2O and methane,” she said. “Limiting N2O emissions can buy us a little more time in figuring out how to reduce CO2 emissions.”

        Obviously, it’s worse than we thought!

    • My grandmother did a bang up job with manure tea, junk fish, chicken poop, and winter overseeding with a legume to fix nitrogen in the soil. She never bought over the counter nitrogen fertilizer. By the way, element names are not capitalized, only their alphabetic symbols are.

  10. ““Mandating” conservation, but not good medical outcomes”
    Those are your words not hers.
    Is it not possible to do both, conservation, and good medical outcomes?
    I think so.

    • Not her words, but the logical consequence of her words.
      In this case, as to the subject “conservation,” and “good medical outcomes,” no.

    • When you put anything above the best outcome for the patient, then by definition you are sacrificing the patient on the alter of conservation.
      She may not have uttered those exact words, but that is where the policy she favors leads.

  11. Why are the greenies worried about this minuscule amount of pollutants while they are pushing electric vehicles?
    Do they not understand science and in particular chemistry, at all? When you charge/discharge a battery some of the material making the batteries anode and cathode are vaporized and released into the atmosphere. Additionally, it is nearly impossible to remove all of the impurities from the material making up the anode and cathode and these will also be vaporized. Then there is the electrolytic solution and the chemicals in it, If a country were to go 100% electric transportation, then that portion using batteries will push thousands of tons of pollutants into the atmosphere for you and I to BREATHE and the resultant harm – many of these chemical are heavy metals, i.e., poison – ignoring whatever effect it might have on global warming.

    • During the last energy/climate crisis (cooling), Department of Energy evaluated the impact of common lead-lead sulfate batteries. It turned out that during charging, they of-gassed toxic stibine and arsine gases, from the antimony and arsenic alloyed in the lead plates. One might argue that lithium batteries don’t emit stibine and arsine, but it is certain that lithium and whatever else in the new batteries aren’t a food group.

  12. Almost certainly outweighs the contribution made by water vapour from the planets ocean surfaces.

  13. As the atmosphere cools at night, what happens to all the extra energy stored during the day? What about during wintry nights? Less energy stored by GHGs, or more?

  14. Imagine a cubic meter of air in front of you. 3.3 trillionths of that space is occupied by the most prevalent of the anesthesic gasses. How small a volume is that? Well a cube with side of 0.01millimeteres is 1 trillionth of the volume of a cubic metre. So 1/3rd of that. So with the molecules in this 1/3rd of a 0.01mm cube of air, you wish to trap heat leaving the surface of the earth and heat the remaining air in the rest of a cubic metre.
    Please someone on the doomsday camp tell me why I should be fearing the end of the world again!?

  15. It’s scaremongering for the sake of scaremongering, like CO2 the amount of the gas released by humans is tiny compared to what is released by by nature. Will this constant stream of cr@p never end?

  16. Look at the bright side of the story: Science is now able to detect such minuscule quantities of trace gases in the atmosphere…
    The marvels of science.
    🙂

  17. No amount of so called GHG’s in the atmosphere can help the increased storage of heat. Heat CANNOT be stored. You can only loose it at different rates. GHG’s are good adsorbers and emitters of IR so help cool the atmosphere.

  18. The only sustainability I want my doctor to be concerned about is sustaining my life.
    Also, just what the heck is ‘sustainability’ in hospitals or healthcare? What are the units of sustainability? Trust me, when you run out of money for doctors, nurses, beds, and supplies, then you really have a sustainability problem. Otherwise, not so much.
    (Happy solution: every Dr. and hospital can send their used wooden tongue depressors to the Drax woodchip-burning power plant in the UK. That will save a few trees here in the US and make Dr. Sherman feel good all over.)

  19. This reminds me of the City Council (read blind green leftists) in Austin, TX. They actually have a law that new restaurants that serve carbonated beverages need to pay to have their CO2 tanks checked by the FIRE DEPARTMENT to make sure they are not leaking CO2. These tanks typically contain 5 pounds of C02. I guess no one told them that one gallon of gas releases about 20 LBS of CO2, or that the CO2 that goes into the drink will be released anyway.

    • Mike in Chile

      …or that the CO2 that goes into the drink will be released anyway.

      So we can rest assured that, “No CO2 shall be released before its time.” /eyeroll
      What a bunch of maroons!

  20. Charles Battig: For once you and I agree 100 per cent on the ludicrous extent to which a few environmentalists can go to establish a reputation for exceptional pseudo-wisdom.
    My first anesthetics (medical student, 1950) started, as instructed, with brief inhalation of 100 per cent nitrous oxide. What environmental damage that may have caused was trivial (then and now) in comparison to the possible damage to brain cells. Fortunately we have learned better ways of doing these things, with modern inhalants used in the 1 per cent range.
    Well, we could always go back to the technique of an old drawing (17th century? 18th?) I once saw — a wooden bowl on the head and a man with a mallet.

  21. Hmmmm. Something smells funny about this gas story. And I have been trying to sniff it out. Unfortunately much of it is hidden behind chemistry books. From my search, the organic compounds themselves are made from organic gases, gases that are a part of the periodic table and come out of our Earth’s own belching, flatulating orifices, meaning some of these anesthetic compounds are naturally occurring ones. And some are compounded by humans to make new compounds of gases that have anesthetic effects. The old ones tend to be too volatile and flammable as well as overly toxic so have fallen out of use. But they are still used in less developed countries because they are cheaper. Newer compounds are used in countries that can afford to buy the various gases used to compound the anesthetic mixes.
    The origins of environmental worries were born in the ozone hole over the Antarctic. There are more anesthetic gas research studies focused on the ozone hole than on greenhouse effects. However over time we all know that only fluorocarbons ended up King of the ozone mountain, and we all know how that has stood the test of time (as in now all we hear are crickets chirping). But hey, we can’t let a good boogey man go to waste.
    So here is what I am thinking happened: Environmentalist researchers, brainstorming on money making research ideas, decided to re-create The Walking Dead by resurrecting the old plot (ozone concerns and anesthesia gases), changing the script to have greenhouse concerns as the central plot. So to turn this idea into a piece of the gravy train, they went looking for these compounded gas components as well as the still intact compounds to gain access to that watermelon greenhouse gravy train.
    Mission accomplished.

    • http://journals.lww.com/anesthesia-analgesia/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2012&issue=05000&article=00025&type=Fulltext
      The gravy train knows no bounds. MD’s and Master level students earned their bread and butter on this modeled study that reports cradle to grave greenhouse foot prints. In other words, they included the greenhouse effects of CO2 in the mix. How so? I thought we were discussing anesthetic gas and compounds. It turns out that manufacturing these gases, from extraction to mixing, to packaging, to transporting were added to the actual parts per billion (that’s right folks, ppBILLION) greenhouse footprint of anesthetic gas and compounds used for medical purposes.
      So with a finger on the scales, we get yet another reason to run naked into the forest screaming that the sky is falling FOR SURE this time!

  22. Given that the anthropogenic “warming signal” resulting from the per annum emission of 5 or so GT of CO2 (1% of the annual CO2 flux from all natural sources) is indistinguishable against the other 99% of entirely natural emissions, one wonders how to quantify the warming impact of compounds that are one billionth less prevalent in the atmosphere. Is there even a word in English for “one billionth of completely undetectable”? Apart, of course, from ‘codswallop’, ‘bunkum’, ‘balderdash’…

  23. My sniffer, sniffed out this:
    Halocarbons are used to produce anesthetics.
    http://www.halocarbon.com/anesthetics/
    Someone we are now a bit more familiar with, thanks to this post, has been studying halocarbons in the past and reporting on their ozone depleting affects.
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2009GL038659/full
    So here he is again sucking at the obviously wider and deeper greenhouse gravy train teat. This man knows how to milk a turnip!!!!!

  24. I am referring to M. K. Vollmer. And this is where he works. His focus is on finding just about anything and everything, including a kitchen sink, in the atmosphere so that he and his crew can do some research on it. From the research I have found, they take flask upon flask of air samples, searching high and low for low incidence ppb and ppt chemicals in our atmosphere and then tie it to some kind of environmental concerning headline grabbing research grant proposal, research, and publication. I bet his money attractant factor to the institute is damned good!
    http://www.empa.ch/plugin/template/empa/137/*/—/l=2

  25. Jodi Sherman, MD, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology & Environmental Compliance Officer
    Yale University, School of Medicine
    jodisherman@yahoo.com
    Jodi Sherman is an Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology at Yale University, School of Medicine. She is also the Environmental Compliance Officer of perioperative services at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Dr. Sherman is a nationally recognized speaker and author in the emerging field of sustainability in anesthesia. Her research interest is in life-cycle assessment of anesthetic practices.
    The time has come to make inquiries about purchasing a MedicAlert bracelet that simply states
    “Anywhere but Yale”.

    • I always tried to reduce my “anesthetic footprint” by holding it in as long as possible. 🙂

Comments are closed.