Drs. Sophie Pestieau and Andrew Waberski

Children’s National receives sustainability award for reducing anesthetic gases

Drs. Sophie Pestieau and Andrew Waberski

Drs. Sophie Pestieau and Andrew Waberski.

The District of Columbia Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) has awarded Children’s National Hospital with a 2022 District Sustainability Award for its successful work around reducing anesthetic gases that contribute to ozone depletion and greenhouse warming.

The big picture

Current data suggests the U.S. healthcare sector contributes 10% of the nation’s greenhouse effect. Volatile inhaled anesthetic gases are often used in the operating room (OR) during procedures that require anesthesia. Most of the organic anesthetic gases remain in the atmosphere for a long time, where they have the potential to act as greenhouse gases.

  • “In perspective, one hour of anesthesia with the volatile anesthetic Desflurane is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from driving 190 miles,” said Andrew Waberski, M.D., pediatric cardiac anesthesiologist, at Children’s National.

The Children’s National Sustainability Council recognized that gas flows can be safely reduced to levels that provide both economical and health benefits to patients as well helping hospitals “go green.” By doing so, hospitals can decrease the amount of inhaled anesthetics used, which decreases the Global Warming Potential (GWP), and also reduce costs.

Why we’re excited

After assessing the impact of anesthetic gases, the Children’s National anesthesia team proposed several interventions to deliver safe and sustainable anesthesia to children. After implementing low-flow anesthesia techniques and reducing Desflurane usage, Children’s National has reduced its GWP of volatile anesthetics by 80%.

What they’re saying

  • “Thank you to the DOEE for recognizing the sustainability efforts we made in the Anesthesia Division at Children’s National,” said Dr. Waberski. “We are now preventing the emission of approximately 725 tons of CO2 per year. We thank our staff members, faculty and providers for helping to implement these changes and contributing to our sustainability efforts.”
  • “I became passionate about sustainability in healthcare once I became a parent, wanting a healthy environment and healthy future not only for my children to grow in, but for all children,” said Sophie Pestieau, M.D., vice chair of Clinical Affairs, Division of Anesthesiology, Pain and Perioperative Medicine. “As a physician with a duty to ‘first do no harm,’ I see an opportunity to directly address the industry’s growing environmental footprint and assist in the transition to greener healthcare.”
  • “Our Sustainability Council is focused on the hospital’s mission of helping kids grow up stronger, and we pursue this by creating healthy environments. Our projects are successful at reducing waste, saving financial resources and generating quality improvement,” said Rusty Siedschlag, manager of Sustainability at Children’s National.

In September 2021, 200 medical journals named climate change the number one threat to global public health. Children’s National joined the Biden Administration for a White House event on June 30, 2022, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where our team and industry colleagues pledged meaningful action to decarbonize the healthcare sector and make healthcare facilities more resilient to the effects of climate change. Children’s National has committed to meet the Biden administration’s climate goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.