I still need to use a Metered Dose Inhaler

I still need to use a metered dose inhaler. What can I do to maximise its usefulness and minimise its environmental impact?

Please don’t feel guilty about this. We urgently need pharmaceutical companies to develop better propellants that don’t harm the environment and refillable, recyclable inhalers with dose counters.

In the meantime there is still LOTS you can do!

  1. Make sure you are using it properly. Sorry to keep going on about this but it’s so important! Here’s a useful page from asthma UK
  2. If your inhaler lacks a dose counter, make sure you know how many doses are in it and try to keep a careful track of how many doses you’ve used. We know from inhaler recycling data that only about half of all doses in metered dose inhalers actually get used. If you use Ventolin™, you may be able to use this trick to check how many doses are left in it.
  3. Recycle it after you’ve finished with it. The plastic and aluminium will be recycled, and more importantly any left over propellant gas is captured and sold to the refrigeration or air conditioning industry, where it’s use and disposal should be tightly regulated. If you can’t recycle it, take it back to any pharmacy and it will be properly disposed of; the harmful greenhouse gases will be thermally degraded into less environmentally damaging products.
  4. There may be more environmentally friendly inhaler options for you, even if you need a metered dose inhaler. Check the specific inhaler section of the site for more information. Most commonly Ventolin Evohaler™ can be changed for a smaller volume inhaler with the same number of doses in.
  5. If you have 2 puffs twice daily of a brown inhaler there may be an option to change to 1 puff twice daily of a stronger inhaler. For example if you take 2 puffs of beclomethasone 100 morning and evening you could safely switch to 1 puff of beclomethasone 200 instead. Fewer doses to take, smaller carbon footprint and less waste. The down side is you can’t be so flexible about adjusting your dose, but if you’ve been stable on that treatment for a while why not ask your GP or nurse if you can switch.
  6. Talk to your GP or practice nurse about whether a spacer could make your inhaler more efficient. These small plastic devices can get more of the medicine into your lungs (where it works) and less in your mouth (where it can cause side effects)