Chinese Consumers Turn to Canned Air for Relief

June 14, 2016

The rapid rise of Asian manufacturing has transformed nations like China and India into economic powerhouses as well as environmental nightmares. World health experts estimate that millions of people have died due to excessive air pollution in these two countries. So far government officials have done little to relieve their increasingly stifled citizens, leading many to turn to a variety of consumer products for help. Along with pollution masks and air purifiers, a growing number of people are also purchasing canned and bottled air in a desperate attempt to breathe easy.

In simpler times this situation would seem like a joke. Moses Lam of Vitality Air certainly thought so when he began selling Canadian air on eBay as a laugh. Shockingly, though, his company began to receive hundreds of orders from China for what was supposed to be a novelty product. Since launching in October, Vitality Air has sold more than 12,000 bottles to Chinese consumers. Prices range between $20 and $32 for a canister that lasts for approximately 200 breaths. As health experts are quick to point out, this amounts to just a fraction of the total number of breaths humans inhale each day. “Unfortunately we need about 20 cubic meters or 20,000 one liter bottles of air everyday so this is hardly a long-term solution,” said senior Greenpeace campaigner Lauri Myllyvirta.

If canned air is such an impractical product, then why are more and more people buying it? The simple answer is desperation. “That it would occur to anyone to buy air in a bottle definitely speaks to how bad the situation is,” said Myllyvirta. “It is a terrifying feeling when you know that with every breath you are inhaling toxic particles that can get everywhere into your body, so you can understand this visceral response of wanting to breathe safe air even for a moment.” While experts recommend using air purifiers or pollution monitors in affected areas, not everyone can afford these expensive products. Instead, environmentalists advocate for a global cooperative effort between governments, companies and citizens to eliminate dangerous pollutants from the atmosphere for good.

 

Questions:

  1. Did canned air become an unethical product once consumers started buying it for health benefits rather than novelty purposes?

 

  1. Should countries like China start closing factories in order to curb pollution? How would this affect the global supply chain?

 

 

Source: Joanna Chu, “The $Mog Economy: Bottled Air Takes Off As A Big Business In China,” Mashable, May 12, 2016. Photo by Dean Hochman.

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