China is offering a breath of fresh air to tourists affected by its high pollution levels – with plans to sell bottles of oxygen. In an attempt to address its dangerous smog levels – described as an environmental crisis by the World Health Organization – canned air is due to hit the streets. The bottles of air will to be manufactured as part of a tourism scheme by authorities in the southwestern Guizhou province. Air from the area’s eco-tourism zones such as Fanjing and Leigong mountains will be bottled, and on the shelves to be sold from June 20.However, entrepreneurial types are already cashing in on the idea. Costumed characters called Oxygen Babies have been giving away bottles, which are filled with air collected at the Tianmu mountain scenic spot in the county of Linan in Zhejiang province. They are expected to tour the country, promoting the new products, which are currently free of charge, and were pictured in the city of Hangzhou in east China’s Zhejiang province.Product manager Long Peng said: ‘The air in Tianmu mountain is so fresh that negative oxygen ion is 3,300 per cubic centimetre, much higher than the normal level. ‘The problem is that there are not enough negative ions in daily life. All the modern things we have generate an overabundance of positive ions that make us feel tired, depressed and irritable.’
The inspiration for the idea reportedly came from tourist shops near Mount Fuji in Japan, where cans of fresh air have been a huge success. During a National Congress meeting, China’s president, Xi Jinping, suggested Guizhou ‘sell cans in the future’, adding: ‘Air quality is now a deciding factor in people’s perception of happiness.’However, it’s not the first time bottle air has gone on sale in China. Last year, Chen Guangbiao, who made his fortune in the recycling business and is a high-profile philanthropist, claimed to have sold 10 million cans in just 10 days, as pollution levels reached a record high. ‘I want to tell mayors, county chiefs and heads of big companies: don’t just chase GDP growth, don’t chase the biggest profits at the expense of our children and grandchildren and at the cost of sacrificing our ecological environment’, Chen said.The move comes after the country’s biggest online travel agency and insurance firms joined forces to offer policies to tourists whose trips are visually impaired by the pollution. China’s air quality is closely watched as it fluctuates dramatically from day to day but in recent weeks has registered far into the unhealthy zone. Air pollution is measured in terms of PM2.5, or particulate matter 2.5 micrometers in diameter, which are absorbed by the lungs and can cause heart and lung disease. The World Health Organisation recommends a daily PM2.5 level of 20 and says that levels greater than 300 are serious health hazards. Beijing’s air quality frequently surges past a level of 500, and on January 12 soared to 755, the highest in memory.‘I go outside, walk for about 20 minutes, and my throat hurts and I feel dizzy’, Chen told Reuters in an interview on a busy Beijing sidewalk. He handed out green and orange cans of ‘Fresh Air’, with a caricature of himself on them saying, ‘Chen Guangbiao is a good man’. ‘Be a good person, have a good heart, do good things,’ reads a message along the bottom of each can. The 44-year-old entrepreneur, whose wealth is estimated at $740 million according to last year’s Hurun Rich List of China’s super-wealthy, is an ebullient and tireless self-promoter. He is something of a celebrity in China, with more than 4 million followers on Sina Weibo, China’s most popular Twitter-like microblogging platform.