It turns out anything that can be commercialized will be commercialized. And the more the world’s cities become clogged with pollution, the more people are willing to shell out money for the the sensory renewal, or, more likely, the placebo effect of fresh, bottled air.
A British company, Aethaer, is selling a pint of air from supposedly pristine locales to people in China for about $97.
Green and Clean, an Australian company, is harvesting air from places like the idyllic Blue Mountains in Australia.
Green and Peace product page
Then there's a Canadian firm, Vitality Air, that collects Rocky Mountain air from the US.
Vitality Air product page
Currently, the primary market for bottled air is China, a country notorious for air thick with contaminants.
“I live in Beijing where the air is very bad,” reads one testimonial from Green and Clean’s web site. “I spend a lot of time trying to stay fit and healthy but I can’t change the air. Taking in some clean air every day makes me feel great.”
Green and Peace intends to ship 40,000 bottles a month to the country, according to The New York Times. They also plan to expand to other countries such as India.
These products are a harrowing reminder that clean air is a scarcity around the world. In fact, the World Health Organization found that the vast majority of the world doesn't have access to clean air.
Approximately, 6.5 million die each year from air pollution. In some cities, air pollution causes an endless array of health consequences and is particularly hazardous to children, who can be irreversibly impacted.
By 2050, it's estimated that 70% of the global population will live in cities. At the same time, deforestation and desertification are rising in tandem, meaning organic air purification is diminishing.
Needless to say, bottled air isn't having a demonstrable affect on anybody. A person would need to inhale eight to 10 bottles a minute to get the necessary amount of air, and, even then, she would have to be inhaling only that air, somehow avoiding the air that surrounds her at every moment.
But the benefits of clean air are being touted by brands and it's an odd exercise in stating the obvious: clean air is good for you.
As the global population swells and the natural environment changes, will polluted air be the default? Will only those who can afford $100 jars and bottles (1/6 of the per capita income of India) be able to breathe fresh air?
As it stands, daily air quality in cities like Beijing and New Delhi is contingent on income: how many air purifiers can you afford? How well can you insulate your apartment?
Either way, Aethaer's web site has an unintentionally ominous statement in their "about" section.
“AETHAER (pronounced eath-air) comes from the ancient Greek word for pure, fresh air (aether). According to legend, aether was only accessible to the gods, who inhaled it as a healthier and superior alternative to air available for mortal humans.”