Published : 2023-07-26

Toxicity of anesthetic gases: exposure in operating rooms and influence on the environment

Maciej Bara

Agata Janczak


Nitrous oxide, sevoflurane, isoflurane and desflurane are commonly used to provide anesthesia during surgical procedures. However, usage of inhaled anesthetics is not without its risks. Occupational exposure to those gases might have a harmful effect on medical personnel working not only at operating theaters, but also on post-operative wards and intensive care units. Long term exposure to volatile anesthetics may lead to liver and kidney damage and elevated plasma inflammatory markers. Episodes of  miscarriage, preterm birth or congenital malformations have been observed in pregnant women. Neurotoxicity of these drugs also has been evidenced by recent studies. What is more, anesthetics are greenhouse gases that contribute to the climate crisis. Some of the gaseous anesthetics stay in the atmosphere for even 114 years after being released from the hospital environment. The aim of this paper is to review the dangers of occupational exposure to inhaled anesthetics and their impact on the environment, as well as to take a closer look at alternatives that could potentially replace the use of  gaseous anesthetics.


environment toxicity, anesthetic gases, occupational risk





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Bara, M., & Janczak, A. (2023). Toxicity of anesthetic gases: exposure in operating rooms and influence on the environment. Prospects in Pharmaceutical Sciences, 21(3), 1–5.

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