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Monday, September 28, 1998 Published at 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK


Fresh air - at a price

One in five people in New Delhi has problems breathing

Businessmen in India are cashing in on New Delhi's pollution problem by opening a bar which dispenses oxygen - at $5 per half hour.

The Life Care Oxygen Bar offers clients the opportunity of breathing in 93% oxygen through nasal tubes.

The bar's owners claim oxygen sharpens mental faculties which are otherwise dulled by breathing in the city's fumes.

New Delhi is one of the most polluted cities in the world. One in five of its residents have breathing problems.

Deepak Singh, owner of the Oxygen Bar, said: "We are not getting pure oxygen anywhere. Where should we go? Everywhere we go there is pollution."

However, doctors argue that the bar is a gimmick and is diverting attention from the real problem of pollution.

Dr Rajesh Chawla said: "The pollution is more important than a half hour of oxygen.

"There is no scientific data anywhere in the world available which says that oxygen taken like this prolongs life or makes you happier or makes your disease better."

Around the world

But the bar's owners believe they are on to a surefire hit and are planning another 300 outlets throughout India.

Meanwhile, deaths from pollution continue to rise in India.

[ image: Dr Rajesh Chawla: 'no scientific data that there are benefits']
Dr Rajesh Chawla: 'no scientific data that there are benefits'
Oxygen bars are becoming increasingly popular around the world. They began in the Far East and have since spread to Europe, Canada and America.

The US National Oxygen Bar Association says they are developing fastest in the USA where Hollywood actors are supporting them.

Woody Harrelson from Cheers and the film Natural Born Killers is said to be opening his own bar in California.

However, a doctor from the American Lung Association is sceptical about oxygen bars.

He told USA Today: "From a purely scientific point of view, it's hard to substantiate what the benefits could be."

The oxygen bar movement is linked to a rise in interest in oxygen therapy.

Supporters of the controversial treatment claim different therapies can treat a range of diseases from diabetes to cancer and AIDS.

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