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Life cycle assessment (LCA) evaluates the environmental impact of a product based on the materials and processes used to manufacture the item as well as the item’s use and disposal. The objective of this LCA was to evaluate and compare the environmental impact of a metered dose inhaler, specifically the Proventil® HFA inhaler (Merk & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA), and an electric nebulizer, specifically the DeVilbiss Pulmo-Aide® nebulizer (DeVilbiss, Port Washington, NY, USA). GaBi LCA software was used to model the global warming potential (GWP) of each product by using substantiated data and well-justified assumptions for the components, manufacturing, assembly, and use of both devices. The functional unit used to model each device was one dose of the active drug, albuterol sulfate. The inhaler’s GWP, 0.0972 kg CO2-eq, was greater than the nebulizer’s even when uncertain parameters were varied ±100x. During the use phase ofa the inhaler, which accounted for approximately 96% of the inhaler’s total GWP, HFA 134a is used as a propellant to deliver the drug. The total GWP for the electric nebulizer was 0.0294 kg CO2-eq assuming that the mouthpiece was cleaned in a dishwasher, while it was 0.0477 kg CO2-eq when the nebulizer mouthpiece was hand washed between uses. The GWP breakeven scenario between dishwashing and hand washing occurred when the mouthpiece accounted for 10% of the dishwasher load.


Published version. Sustainability, Vol. 9, No. 10 (2017): 1-13. DOI. © 2017 MDPI. Used with permission.