• Tech Tech

Doctor proposes new asthma inhaler to help patients and curb pollution problem: 'We need to do something'

"We are creating our own problems."

"We are creating our own problems."

Photo Credit: iStock

The inhaler you rely on for breathing may contribute to the planet's warming. However, there's a potential large-scale solution on the horizon.

As Boston's WBUR reports, the little boot-shaped inhalers you're familiar with use a gas to propel the medication that's up to 3,000 times more powerful in trapping heat than carbon dioxide, enemy No. 1 among planet-warming gases. 

Equipped with this information, Miguel Divo, a lung specialist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, has begun offering more eco-friendly "dry-powder inhaler" (DPI) medication options that eliminate the need for gas to propel the medication, WBUR reported.

"There is only one planet and one human race," Divo said, according to the news outlet. "We are creating our own problems … and we need to do something."

Hydrofluorocarbon gases, typically used in traditional inhalers, are considered "super-pollutants" because of the warming effects they create in their short lifespans. Continued warming of the planet from human activity leads to events that contribute to poor air-quality conditions, such as amplified wildfires and longer allergy seasons, thus leading to more people needing inhalers to breathe. 

Currently, around 1 in 12 people in the U.S. have asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America — and studies happening around the U.S. continue to confirm how air pollution causes asthma. 

Communities bearing the brunt of pollution, such as urban neighborhoods with heavy traffic or industry, stand to benefit the most from innovations that reduce air pollution. Children who live in urban communities are especially at risk for pollution-induced asthma attacks. 

Evidence already exists that dry-powder medications work. A recent study found that people who use dry-powder inhalers improved their asthma control and more than halved their carbon footprint.

Roadblocks are still in place that are preventing DPIs from taking off. Price, for example, is a massive barrier as DPIs are typically more expensive and increase with price with new innovations, as WBUR reported. 

Also, individuals with weaker lung strength, such as older adults or young children, are still recommended to use traditional gas-propelled inhalers. "Soft-mist inhalers" could provide a middle ground option between the two.

While more eco-friendly solutions continue developing, some feel that traditional inhalers must become less dependent on planet-warming gases. "We don't want medications to contribute to that," said Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, per Medical Xpress.

Join our free newsletter for weekly updates on the coolest innovations improving our lives and saving our planet.

Cool Divider