Oxygen bars are surely not a solution for pollution


New trend : A user breathes in oxygen mixed with perfume at an oxygen bar in New Delhi. PHOTO/ANUSHREE FADNAVIS

No medical community has come forward to spread awareness on this captivating yet unscientific business

The popularity of packaged air began around four years ago when a Canadian company launched ‘canned air’ for people in China when air pollution in many cities became alarmingly high. The newer addition — oxygen-bar — a recreational parlour or cafe which serves ‘pure oxygen’ is becoming a more attractive destination, particularly in cities with dangerous levels of air pollution. At times, the oxygen comes in different scented flavours.

In cities with highly polluted air, the business of ‘canned oxygen’ or ‘oxygen-bar’ is flourishing. The recent launch of such a recreational oxygen parlour in Delhi amidst the city’s infamously bad air condition has caught significant media attention. But how safe are they and are any benefits at all?

First, do we really need this extra oxygen? The simplest answer is no. Unlike conventional oxygen therapies used in respiratory conditions that is administered for a short or long period in hospital or at home, people take oxygen for an ultra-short period in these bars (30 minutes or less). As per the standard clinical procedure, oxygen supplementation can be administered only in case of hypoxemia (lowering of oxygen saturation in the arterial blood below 95%) and it does not have any consistent beneficial effect on non-hypoxemic patients.

Placebo, at best

It must and should be remembered that the oxygen level does not alter in the air even when the pollution level is high. The same applies to our health — oxygen saturation in blood remains unchanged in healthy people in normal conditions, and such recreational oxygen cannot provide any health improvement. It can at best have a placebo effect. Though users and proponents of purified oxygen claim several benefits such as relieving stress, headache and migraine, and help in achieving better energy and mood, there is no clinical evidence available so far in support of the beneficial effects of recreational oxygen use.

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