Health boom spurs proliferation of oxygen units

by Yoshino Matsui

With the domestic market for health products continuing to expand rapidly, appliance vendors are now marketing a range of home-use oxygen units.

On March 10, electronics giant Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. debuted the MS-X1 Oxygen Concentrator, a compact oxygen-supply unit that looks like a standard phone headset.

The product can boost oxygen levels for the user from the usual 21 percent to about 30 percent, using an oxygen-enrichment membrane, according to Matsushita. Users breathe the oxygen in via a headset tube.

According to the firm, inhaling oxygen-rich air has various beneficial effects, including eliminating drowsiness and improving concentration.

Matsushita, which is trying to promote home use of the product, has set its price at 48,000 yen, less than one-tenth of that charged for larger oxygen-concentration machines usually used at fitness clubs and “oxygen bars.”

“Spending money for oxygen is not a common practice now, but I believe people will not see our product as odd as one may imagine,” Matsushita spokesman Takashi Imamura said.

“Look how popular aerobics classes are. Aerobics is basically about taking in oxygen. Buying (bottled mineral) water has become common thing, and some water costs more than gasoline.”

Trading house Nichimen Corp. introduced the OXYCOOL32, another small, lightweight oxygen-concentration unit, touted to boost oxygen levels to about 30 percent, at the end of last year. Its market price stands at 128,000 yen.

The OXYCOOL32 also incorporates an oxygen-enrichment membrane and can boost oxygen levels to about 30 percent.

Extra features it boasts include a device that generates negatively charged ions at the air intake duct. If used with aromatic water solutions, which are sold separately, users can breathe aromatic oxygen-rich air, Nichimen said.

“Our product is designed to give users the triple healing effects of high-concentration oxygen, negatively charged ions and aroma,” said Shinji Araki of Nichimen’s retail department.

He said the units have primarily been purchased as home-use items by consumers in their 40s and older, as well as by operators of beauty and massage parlors.

The ratio of household and corporate use stands at roughly 50-50.

“Beauty parlors offer customers use of the product in waiting rooms, and at some massage places, customers can use it while receiving feet reflexology treatments,” Araki said.

Life Mate Co., a venture firm that sells health equipment, is marketing a portable, bottle-shaped oxygen generator. The Vitaria 1000, available for 9,800 yen, requires no electricity. It needs just water and powdered medication for chemical reactions to generate oxygen for five minutes, the firm said.

The medication is sold separately in tea bags, with 30 bags costing 9,000 yen.

“It’s convenient for use by athletes or elderly people in climbing mountains,” remarked Life Mate President Yoshikatsu Mizuno.