Oxygen Bars: Is a Breath of Fresh Air Worth It?
On the Name of oxygen, your local oxygen bar may offer you peppermint, bayberry, cranberry, wintergreen, breathe mints. But in fact these all are merely oxygen flavors. For the first time the oxygen bars were introduced in USA, in the late 1990s, and since then the trend have been on an up-swing. More and more customers are going to these bars to have their share of oxygen through a plastic hose (canella) inserted into their nostrils. Most of the patrons choose the flavored” oxygen produced by pumping oxygen through an aroma and in to the nose.
This oxygen inhaling in bars may last from few minutes to 20 minutes. It also depends on the customer’s choice and the money the customer has. The cost of a dollar a minute can not be afforded by most of us but regular customers get a discount.
All most all the proprietors of oxygen bars do not make any medical claim for their product, and also say that their oxygen is not a medical gas and this is only for fun sake. But as per the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, any kind of oxygen used by the citizens and sold by another person is a prescription drug. According to Melvin Szymanski, a consumer safety officer in the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) it does not make a difference what they label it. In fact there is oxygen at the other end of the hose and the provider of this is actually dispensing the prescription drug oxygen to you.
Generally all the oxygen bars that dispense oxygen do not violate FDA regulations. According to Szymanski, FDA has given full authority to the individual state boards of licensing to enforce their special requirements, in any, pertaining to the oxygen dispensing bars. Many states decide to allow the oxygen bars on the other hand other states do not encourage the same and demand for the very strict compliance with the law. In addition, Szymanski says that the FDA is considering an investigation on the claims of the oxygen bars, such as curing cancer or AIDS, or helping ease arthritis pain.
Are oxygen bars really healthy or just hype?
According to fans the benefits may include reduction in stress, increase in energy and alertness, lessening the effects of hangovers, headaches, and sinus problems, and generally relaxing the body. But the fact is that there are no long-term, well-controlled scientific studies available as on date to support these claims of oxygen in healthy human. According to Mary Purucker, M.D., Ph.D., a pulmonary specialist in CDER, there is no requirement of additional oxygen for healthy lungs. In addition he says that we have been surviving in this atmosphere of about 21 percent oxygen, for million years.
As per the statement of the American Lung Association, there are no benefits of the oxygen inhaled at the oxygen bars, but also there are no proof of any dangers to a healthy person may be caused by inhaling the oxygen at the low flow levels used in such bars.
According to Purucker, people who are under some medical condition may require additional oxygen, but these people should also avoid oxygen bars. Further Purucker adds that the people with certain kind of heart disease, asthma, congestive heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, such as emphysema, are required to have their medical oxygen regulated carefully to oxygenate their blood properly. In case these people inhale too much of oxygen they may not be able to breath properly.
According to Purucker, in case people who have undergone bleomycin, a chemotherapy used in the treatment of certain kind of cancer, should not be given high level oxygen for long time, this may be too risky for them. Generally people assume that oxygen is good, but too much is not essentially better.
Adds Purucker, the biggest problem FDA is facing about oxygen bars is the “flavored” oxygen, dispensed at the bars. This flavor is produced by bubbling oxygen through the aromatic solution bottles and then this oxygen is pumped in a vaporized scent via a hose and into the nostrils. For production of aroma some bars use oil-free, food-grade particles, while some bars use aroma oils for the production of aroma. Lipoid pneumonia, a kind of inflammation of the lungs, may be caused by inhalation of oily substances. At the oxygen bars there is no surety of the purity or sterility of the aerosol that is generated there, even if they use an oil-free medium. At the oxygen bars, customers are always on the risk of inhaling allergens or irritants that may result in them wheezing. There are chances of infection also in case the customers inhale live contaminants such as bacteria or other pathogens.
Some other hazards of oxygen
Duane Sylvia, a consumer safety officer in CDER, says that the oxygen does not burn itself but helps in combustion process. Hence smoking near to the oxygen, even in the same room, can result in extreme dangers. While some oxygen bars are housed in health clubs or some other places where smoking is prohibited, but on the other hand some oxygen bars are located at nightclubs or casinos where smoking is a common practice. In an oxygen-enriched environment, addition of substances, such as oils increases the danger of fire.
If the equipments, used at oxygen bars are not maintained properly then can also turn into potential danger. In case the oxygen bars are using clay filters, the filters should be changed at regular intervals. If the filters are not changed regularly they start growing pathogenic microorganisms that can cause infection. According to Sylvia, oxygen cylinders can be very dangerous, if the cylinders are not kept in a well-ventilated area and also if they are kept on their sides.
About pumping oxygen
Aviators breathing oxygen or oxygen extracted out of the air are utilized at most of the bars. Aviators breathing oxygen (ABO) is about 99.0 percent pure and is also medically graded, utilized only for aircrafts. Aviators breathing oxygen (ABO) should not be utilized for recreational inhalation or medical therapeutic treatment of humans or animals.
Most of the oxygen bars use a concentrator as means of removing nitrogen and other gases in the air circulating in the room, and then this about 95 percent pure oxygen is delivered via a hose at a continuous flow rate. But the purity of this oxygen is decreased because of the air present in the surrounding of the inhaler. There is further decrease in the purity of the oxygen with the addition of aroma. As per the statement of one bar owner, the customer gets about 50% pure oxygen.
In the words of Purucker, although there is no risk to healthy person in inhaling this low level oxygen, but there is any benefit also.
Requirement of oxygen in sports
As we all might have observed on TV that a football player runs off the field soon after the play is over and straight way puts on an oxygen mask. According to Conrad Earnest, Ph.D., director of exercise physiology at the Cooper Institute in Dallas, this is not actually required. He further adds that although the game of football is a combative activity, but the players are going out of breath because of lack of oxygen, it is due to massive exertion. According to Earnest, athletes are exceptions, because they play at higher altitudes than they normally do, and do not get enough time to get accustomed to this. For example if the New York Giants go to play the Washington Redskins, there will be negligible oxygen benefit. But if they go and play with the Denver Broncos, they may require oxygen after play. This is due to the fact that the Denver Broncos are always playing at altitude of about one mile from sea level, while the New York Giants normally play at lower levels.
According to Earnest, the products with added oxygen such as oxygenated water, sports drinks, and skin sprays are putting sales before science. He further adds that incase you drink oxygenated water either the water will not react at all and will pass through the gut or the water will react with the acid in the stomach and the additional oxygen will only cause more burping.
Altitude and oxygen
As we all are aware that as the altitude increases the atmospheric pressure decreases. But, according to Mary Purucker, M.D., Ph.D., a Food and Drug Administration pulmonary specialist, the people living at higher altitudes very easily adapt to their environment without using extra oxygen. At higher altitudes blood becomes more efficient at transporting oxygen to tissues.
As per Robert Mazzeo, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at the University of Colorado in Boulder, there is no requirement of additional oxygen for the people who go to a higher altitude from the lower altitudes. He further adds that it will be difficult for the people to exercise at higher altitudes who generally live at lower heights. In the words of Mazzeo, maximum capacity declines as altitude increases, in case you are habitual of running two miles per day, you can still run for two miles but the speed will not be the same.