Oxygen Bars - Health Benefit or Hazard

Oxygen vending is a trend that began surfacing in the late 1990s in Japan and spread quickly around the world. The vending machines are placed in health food stores, health clubs, spas, tanning salons, nightclubs, hotels, yoga studios, coffee houses and airports. They can also be found in ski chalets, casinos, trade shows, corporate meetings, private parties and at promotional events.

Prices start at around $10 for ten minutes and can include an aroma of choice. What do patrons get from these sessions? The ten-minute sessions can be considered an energy alternative for high-priced coffee or energy drinks.

Proponents of oxygen bars claim this practice is not only safe, but enhances health and well-being. What benefit comes from a session at an oxygen bar?

Alleged Benefits of Recreational Oxygenreduces headachesalleviates sinus problemsrelaxes the bodyreduces stressincreases energystimulates brain activityenhances concentrationlessons hangover effectsArguments Against Recreational Oxygen

The American Lung Association's stance on recreational oxygen bars is clear. Inhaling oxygen in a bar is unlikely to have a beneficial physiological effect on a healthy person.

Mary Purucker, M.D., PhD, a pulmonary specialist at CDER ( FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research), states, "People with healthy lungs don't need additional oxygen. Those who do use supplemental oxygen should not go to oxygen bars. If they inhale too much oxygen, they can stop breathing. People think oxygen is good, but more is not necessarily better."

"People with some types of heart disease, asthma, congestive heart failure, pulmonary diseases, such as emphysema need to have their medical oxygen regulated carefully to oxygenate their blood properly," says Purucker.

FDA says No to Oxygen Flavors

One of the FDA's biggest concerns regarding oxygen bars is the use of flavored oxygen. The flavor is produced by bubbling oxygen through bottles containing aromatic solutions and then pumping the vaporized scent through the hose and into the nostrils.

Some bars use oil-free, food-grade particles to produce the aroma, but others may use aroma oils. Inhaling oily substances can lead to inflammation in the lungs, known as lipoid pneumonia.

The FDA has warned against the use of industrial generators as they don't have the proper filtration. Susceptible customers run the risk of inhaling allergens or irritants that may cause them to wheeze. Inhalation of live contaminants such as bacteria or other pathogens may lead to infection.

Oxygen Concentrators

Improper maintenance of oxygen equipment presents a potential danger. Some oxygen concentrators use clay filters which cause micro-organisms to grow if they aren't changed regularly, which can cause a lung infection.

Dr. Purucker's opinion; "People have nothing to gain by frequenting Oxygen bars, and subject themselves to unnecessary risk." And finally, "There are no long-term, well-controlled scientific studies that support the positive claims."

Oxygen Bar Equipment

The latest technology of oxygen bar equipment offers membrane technology developed specifically for recreational use. Oxygen vending units are set at a safe level (30 %) to avoid liability and to pass legal restrictions in the USA.

Proponents claim this practice is safe and enhances health and well-being, including strengthening the immune system.

Several states have banned the use of industrial generators for recreational oxygen breathing, including Texas, Iowa and Massachusetts. These states are standing on the side of the FDA, hoping to protect the innocent.