Air pollution is a huge problem around the world, which is especially bad for those of us with asthma or other respiratory conditions. Fortunately, in some places it’s getting better. In the United States air quality has improved greatly since 1970 when the Clean Air Act was passed. But in other places such as quickly growing Asian cities, air pollution is getting much much worse.
One such city is Beijing. The Environmental Protection Agency developed an Air Quality Index that rated the amount of air pollution on a scale of 0 to 500. Anything between 301 and 500 is considered “hazardous” and residents are advised to avoid any and all outdoor activity. At the time, they didn’t think air pollution could go over 500. But two years ago, Beijing proved them wrong.
And now in 2013 Beijing’s air quality has hit a level of 755. Basically, living in Beijing on a bad pollution day is worse for your respiratory system than living in an airport smoking lounge.
The problem’s gotten so bad Beijing entrepreneur Chen Guangbiao has started selling cans of fresh air for five yuan ($0.80 US) a piece. They come in a variety of flavors including Taiwan, Tibet, and Ya’an.
As you can imagine, breathing air from a can is not that practical. The new business venture is going after publicity, not profits. And this isn’t Guangbiao’s first environmental publicity stunt either. Recently he gave away 5,000 bicycles to encourage more biking and less driving.
According to Gunagbiao, “If we don’t start caring for the environment, then after 20 or 30 years our children and grandchildren might be wearing gas masks and carry oxygen tanks… People say I am high profile or love to stage a show, but I don’t think those who seek ‘stability’ and a low profile can do much for social progress.”