Climate change presents a global health threat. However, the provision of healthcare, including dialysis, is associated with greenhouse gas emissions. The aim of this study was to determine the carbon footprints of the differing modalities and treatment regimes used to deliver maintenance hemodialysis (HD), in order to inform carbon reduction strategies at the level of both individual treatments and HD programs. This was a component analysis study adhering to PAS2050. Emissions factors were applied to data that were collected for building energy use, travel and procurement. Thrice weekly in-center HD has a carbon footprint of 3.8 ton CO2 Eq per patient per year. The majority of emissions arise within the medical equipment (37%), energy use (21%), and patient travel (20%) sectors. The carbon footprint of providing home HD varies with the regime. For standard machines: 4 times weekly (4 days, 4.5 hours), 4.3 ton CO2 Eq; 5 times weekly (5 days, 4 hours), 5.1 ton CO2 Eq ; short daily (6 days, 2 hours), 5.2 ton CO2 Eq; nocturnal (3 nightly, 7 hours), 3.9 ton CO2 Eq; and nocturnal (6 nightly, 7 hours), 7.2 ton CO2 Eq. For NxStage equipment: short daily (5.5 days, 3 hours), 1.8 ton CO2 Eq; 6 nightly nocturnal (2.1 ton CO2 Eq). The carbon footprint of HD is influenced more by the frequency of treatments than by their duration. The anticipated rise in the prevalence of home HD patients, dialyzing more frequently and for longer than in-center patients, will increase the emissions associated with HD programs (despite reductions in patient travel emissions). Emerging technologies, such as NxStage, might offer a solution to this problem.
Keywords: Climate change; carbon footprint; greenhouse gas; hemodialysis.
© 2011 The Authors. Hemodialysis International © 2011 International Society for Hemodialysis.