By Dr. Z, Peter Zeischegg, The Official Guide to Alternative Medicine
The oxygen bar is a trend that started in the late 1990s in Japan, and quickly spread east to California and Las Vegas. Used for health and recreation as well, O2 bars can now be found in many venues such as nightclubs, salons, spas, healthclubs, resorts, tanning salons, restaurants, coffee houses, bars, airports, ski chalets, yoga studios, chiropractors, and casinos. They can be found as a "People Magnet" at trade shows, conventions and corporate meetings, as well as at private parties and promotional events. "Airheads" will normally pay $1.00 USD per minute to inhale an increased percentage of oxygen compared to the normal atmospheric content of 21% oxygen. This oxygen is produced from the ambient air by an industrial (non-medical) oxygen concentrator and "inhaled" through a nasal cannula (AKA nose hose) for a period of 5 to 10 minutes - or even longer.
Proponents claim this practice is not only safe, but enhances health and well-being, including strengthening the immune system, and enhancing concentration. It has been alleged to alieviate hangovers and help with migraines, but no formal studies have yet confirmed any of these claims. Individual flavored scents (aromas) add to the experience.
Opponents warn that individuals with respiratory diseases such as asthma and emphysema should not inhale too much oxygen. The FDA warns that some "flavoring" methods use oils, which if used improperly, and droplets are inhaled, might contribute to an inflammation of the lungs. Re-using nasal cannulas and head-set delivery systems can lead to the spread of infection. Also, concentrated oxygen is a flame accelerant which should be kept away from cigarettes and other sources of ignition.
It should be noted that when inhaling normal air (21% oxygen) a healthy human body will on average exhale 14% oxygen, absorbing only %5 of the inhaled oxygen. Thus, it is unclear that increasing the oxygen concentration during inhalation will result in any more oxygen being absorbed than normally is. Certain medical conditions (such as lung injury or decompression sickness) do call for high oxygen concentrations, to offset the more limited breathing capacity or lower the partial gas pressure of nitrogen.
Canned Oxygen, a relatively new product, is a canned gas sold for inhalation. It typically contains only around 95% concentrated oxygen to avoid the problems of distributing medical grade oxygen. It may be flavored with flavors like "Mountain Mint" and grapefruit to make the experience more pleasurable. The addition of this product will supposedly give the customer a boost. The product is pushed as a healthy addition to the modern life; as a partner to purified water and natural food supplements. It is most widely available in Japan, where it is sold at 7-Elevens as well as given away as a prize in Japanese game shows. Canned oxygen is also available in the United States. For example, POD ("Personal Oxygen Device"), a domestic brand of Canned Oxygen from GO2 LLC, is sold in 7-Elevens throughout Colorado.