Fine dust equals good business in some cases

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Fine dust equals good business in some cases


Left: An air purifier that is worn around the neck, one of many products being purchased as pollution hits records. Right: A nose mask. [JOONGANG ILBO]

With fine dust hitting record levels, consumers are spending big bucks on gear and gadgets that can help block or capture the unhealthy particles.

Clear skies have been a rare sight this year. This week alone, the Ministry of Environment sent out several emergency-alert text messages to residents in Seoul and Busan and in many other parts of the country to advise them to wear masks and refrain from outdoor activities.

On Monday, the government measured fine-dust particle concentrations above 130 micrograms per cubic meter, the highest level recorded since it started collecting such data in 2015.

The health threats posed by fine dust - which include a higher risk of lung disease and heart problems - have fueled a shopping frenzy for products that can stop dust particles from getting into the body.

Air purifiers are selling faster than ever.

An estimated 2.5 million of the machines were sold last year, more than double the total in 2016. Air purifier sales at Lotte Hi-Mart jumped by 160 percent over the past weekend compared to the same period last year, according to the appliance retailer. Coway reported that air purifier sales rose 35 percent in the first two weeks of January year on year.

Instead of spending a million won ($892) on high-end purifiers, consumers are also turning to rentals to get clean air at home.

Hyundai Rental Care, for example, said it received some 1,000 inquiries about air purifier rentals recently when Seoul residents received fine-dust warning messages from the Environment Ministry.

Some 300 of them signed up for the service that day.

More creative dust-fighting solutions are also catching the attention of consumers. In line with the trend of “wearable” technologies, China-based Ecovacs Robotics and domestic purifier company Ionic have both released mobile, wearable purifiers that users can hang around their necks like headphones.

These rechargeable gadgets promise to clean air on-the-go, helping users breathe better when they’re outside.

Nose masks, small filters that plug into the nostrils, are also winning over fans - especially women, as the mask alternative doesn’t smudge their makeup while still blocking harmful particles. The maker of Nose Clean, a nose filter, claims its product is made of natural paper and cotton materials and is capable of filtering out fine dust.

Appliances that help customers remove dust particles on clothing are also posting record sales.

Around 200,000 clothing-care systems, like the LG Tromm Styler, were sold last year nationwide, nearly twice the sales in 2017. These high-tech closets act like an in-house dry cleaner, removing dust and other particles from clothes using steam technology. At Gmarket, sales of clothing-care systems between Dec. 14 last year and Jan. 13 jumped 109 percent year on year.

“Dryer sales also rose considerably, as consumers worry about hanging their clothes outside,” said a Gmarket spokesperson. “Sales of hand sanitizers and contact lens cleaning solutions have also spiked as a direct response to fine dust-related concerns.”

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