Canned Air: Retailing in China

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Remember the film The Lorax? Where the all supreme entrepreneur-turned-millionaire-turned-mayor sold canned air? I remember watching that and chuckling to myself at the the thought of someone making a profit off of clean air, but as it would turn out, I chuckled too soon.

Amidst China’s pollution crisis, Chinese millionaire and philanthropist Chen Guangbiao is reportedly selling canned air in soda cans for 5 Chinese Yuan ($0.80) a pop in a variety of flavors, including “pristine Tibet” and “post-industrial Taiwan.”

And if you think Chen hasn’t been making profit, think again! The Chinese-language Beijing Youth Daily, translated by The Huffington Post, reveals that Chen, who has been selling his canned air since September 2012, sold $800 worth of canned air in Beijing on the first day alone.

“Every day, we are inhaling the exhaust fumes of cars,” Chen told China’s Sina News last year, as news of his canned air idea began circulating in the media. “And now we have pollution-free air to sell — a benefit to everyone’s health and longevity.”

As we recently reported that China’s air pollution levels are breaking records and reaching dangerous levels. So much so that the Chinese media has taken a stand on air pollution in China by calling on the government to take action against pollution, which according to the media, have reached dangerous levels in the capital city, which is home to around 20 million people.

According to the media, the air quality in Beijing reached 755 on an index measuring particulates of matter in the air. For an idea of how bad 755 is, know that the World Health Organization recommends a daily level no higher than 20 and a level of 300 is deemed to be dangerous. According to Zhou Rong, climate and energy campaigner at Green peace, 755 is the worst recorded air pollution in Beijing.

“How can we get out of this suffocating siege of pollution?” asks the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, in a front-page editorial, according to Reuters. ”Let us clearly view managing environmental pollution with a sense of urgency.”

The media’s sense of urgency is apt, as the the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health found that a particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers can cause cardiopulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infection.

More recently, on Monday, the capital of China was forced to cancel flights due to poor visibility and temporarily shut down factories due to the high levels of smog. The Associated Press wrote: The capital was a colorless scene. Street lamps and the outlines of buildings receded into a white haze as pedestrians donned face masks to guard against the caustic air. The flight cancellations stranded passengers during the first week of the country’s peak, six-week period for travel surrounding the Chinese New Year on Feb. 10.

In light of this pollution-filled state, it’s no surprise that Chen is selling canned air, which is believed to be a publicity stunt. Chen, an environmentalist, has previously smashed electric scooters to protest lead contamination.

  • Susmita Baral

    Susmita is a writer and editor in the Greater New York City area. In her spare time, Susmita enjoys cooking, traveling, dappling in photography, art history and interior design, and moonlighting as a therapist for her loved ones.

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