A Canadian company is selling bottled air to China, and although whether they’re doing it as an extended joke or a genuine attempt to fill a market need is debatable, the Chinese are buying it up faster than the company can bottle it, the Christian Science Monitor is reporting.
— Vitality Air (@vitalityair) December 11, 2015
Vitality Air began as a joke. Co-founder Troy Paquette and his business partner, Moses Lam, joked about selling the crisp, clean mountain air from their hometown of Banff, Alberta. They sold a zip-lock bag of it for 99 cents on eBay; a second bag went for $168.
Knowing a business opportunity when they saw one, the guys began selling bottled Banff air, this time in aluminum canisters rather than zip-lock bags.
“Essentially we’re selling air. Clean, beautiful, fresh Banff mountain air.”
The Canadian bottled air is sold as a “enhancing vitality one breath at a time” and is touted as being helpful with “hangovers, alterness and working out.”
“Your solution to pollution.”
As it turns out, China has a pollution problem — a major, deadly pollution problem. Smog is so bad in Beijing that last week, authorities issued their first-ever red alert, encouraging everybody to stay inside and restricting factories and traffic. In a December 8 Christian Science Monitor report, China correspondent Peter Ford wrote that the Beijing government issued the red alert over tiny particles of pollution that hang in the air, known as PM2.5. The World Health Organization considers a PM2.5 reading of 25 unsafe; in Beijing, they were at 300.
“What is even more alarming, though, is that a week ago – when the PM2.5 readings were an astonishing three times higher than that, the air was yellow and I could hardly see across the freeway outside my window – the authorities did not declare a red alert.”
So bad is air pollution in China that some 4,000 people per day are dying from it.
— Sasja Beslik (@SasjaBeslik) December 10, 2015
And as it gets colder, it’s only going to get worse, explains Zhang Bin, an official with Changchun city environmental protection department.
“Many cities in China, including the northeastern provinces, use coal as the major heat generator, which pushes up air pollution levels.”
With deadly pollution literally killing them, Beijing residents are grasping at anything they can for relief, and that means they’re buying up the canisters of Canadian bottled air, which sell for up to $14 depending on size, as quickly as they can be bottled.
Unfortunately, a canister of Canadian bottled air is only a temporary fix for an exponentially larger problem, says Wallace Leung, a professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, via CNN.
“We need to filter out the particles, the invisible killers, from the air. One bottle of air wouldn’t help. I would be very cautious.”
Other critics are even more direct, saying that Vitality Air’s product is, at best, a joke, and, at worst, a scam.
Moses Lam doesn’t see it that way.
“If China can import food, water, why shouldn’t they have the right to import air?”
Fortunately for residents of Beijing and other Chinese cities choked by pollution, the Chinese government is finally taking action to reduce smog in its cities. China is cracking down on polluting factories, intends to close its coal-fired generators by 2017, and is slowly converting some of its energy generation to solar power.
In the mean time, residents of Chinese cities clogged with pollution are clinging to whatever hope they can, even if it means importing Canadian bottled air sold as a novelty.
[Image via Shutterstock/hxdbzxy]