Air pollution fuels sales of canned air and ‘nosks’

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Air pollution fuels sales of canned air and ‘nosks’


(From top) Disposable cotton mask, canned air, water parsley and an air purifier. [AUCTION]

The spring picnic season has arrived but Seoul’s skies are dirtier than ever, so to protect themselves consumers are buying products such as air-purifying plants and cans of clean air. In terms of air pollution, Seoul was recently ranked the second-most polluted city in the world, after New Delhi.

According to a representative at the e-commerce site Auction, sales of items related to protection from air pollution rose almost fourfold year-on-year between March 20 and April 4.

The largest increase was in purchases of nasal sanitizers, or small plastic bottles containing saline solution, which increased 380 percent year-on-year.

Sales of nose masks, also known in Korea as “nosks,” rose by 213 percent. Unlike face masks, which cover the nose and mouth, nosks are shaped somewhat like swimming nose clips and fit inside the nostrils, where they filter out fine dust during inhalation.

Another product that is doing well is canned air, sales of which have grown 383 percent. These are spray bottles with plastics masks attached to the nozzle. Each bottle contains at least 90 percent oxygen.

Some consumers turn to food as a way to cleanse their bodies after breathing in harmful substances. Water parsley, a seasonal vegetable that grows in spring, sold 112 percent more at Auction during the same period compared to last year. Sales of green tea rose 52 percent while sales of broccoli rose 115 percent.

Another approach is to use plants as natural air purifiers. Ivy and Sansevieria stuckyi are among the plants used to naturally purify the air by absorbing toxic substances. Between March 5 and April 4, air-purifying plants at G-Market sold 123 percent more year-on-year. Those who want to breathe in fresh air while driving bought mini purifiers for automobiles, of which sales rose 43 percent during the same period.

Masks have been a steady seller during the last few years in Korea, fueled not only in the spring season by yellow dust and particulate matter, but also by several major respiratory epidemics caused by viruses such as the MERS-coronavirus. However, this spring, the market is seeing particular demand for high-priced, high-quality masks approved by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.

These government-approved masks are labeled “sanitary aids,” specifically for health care and protection from diseases. According to another e-commerce site, Ticket Monster, masks officially approved for their effectiveness in blocking particulate matter accounted for 58 percent of all mask sales in March, whereas last year they accounted for only 28 percent.

There are two types of labels: “KF80” indicates a product can block 80 percent of particulate matter with a width of 0.6 microns, while “KF94” means a product filters 94 percent of matter smaller than 0.4 microns in diameter.

At TMON, KF94 devices sold 271 percent more year-on-year during March, while KF80 sales rose slightly by 138 percent. Disposable cotton masks saw sales decline by 20 percent, despite their price being much lower.

“Despite the recession and frozen consumer sentiment, people still tend to prioritize function over low cost in terms of products that are directly linked to their health and the health of their family members,” said TMON COO Ha Sung-won.

Another anti-pollution steady seller, air purifiers are seeing a similar rise in demand for premium products. Such air purifiers have enhanced functions and are able to filter ultrafine particles. Despite price tags that range from 500,000 to 2 million won ($438 to $1,750), sales of premium models rose 47 percent year-on-year between January and March, whereas sales of cheaper products only rose 35 percent. Overall, entire air purifier sales increased 68 percent year-on-year.

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