Bay Area Air Quality Is So Poor Uber Drivers Are Selling Masks To Riders

Nov 17, 2018

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With wildfires in both Northern and Southern California finally being contained, residents that were forced to evacuate are beginning to return home or to what’s left of their home.

In addition to entire communities having been leveled and many still being unaccounted for, Californians are facing a new hazard: dangerous air quality. Due to smoke from the wildfires, the air quality in parts of California is at levels that are dangerous to even the most healthy individual.

The area impacted the most by hazardous air quality is the San Francisco/Bay Area. Smoke and fine particulates from the massive Camp Fire have blanketed the Bay Area in a brown haze. Levels are currently “Very Unhealthy” according to Air Now, with some levels approaching the “Hazardous” threshold. This means that all residents, no matter how healthy, will likely experience respiratory issues.

Meanwhile, the poor air quality has also appeared to spark an entrepreneurial spirit in the service industry.

According to Recode, Uber drivers have started capitalizing on the hazardous air quality in the area. One rider shared a photo of what appears to be an Uber driver selling respirator masks for $5 each.

Uber Driver Selling Masks for $5 a Piece in the Bay Area (Image via Recode/Shirin Ghaffary)
Uber driver selling masks for $5 in the Bay Area (Image via Recode/Shirin Ghaffary)

The masks appear to be entry level respirator masks that have the ability to filter out fine particulates. The masks are N95 certified, which is the bare minimum certification a mask would need to protect someone from the hazardous air quality in the San Francisco area. While some N95 certified masks can be pricey, the masks pictured above retail for $20 for a box of 15, or around $1.40 per mask. That means this Uber driver, assuming all 15 masks are sold, could make upwards of $50 per box.

Recode also noted that there have been multiple reports of Uber drivers giving out similar masks for free. While it may be more ethical to just give out masks given the magnitude of the air quality crisis, it isn’t illegal for Uber drivers to sell items out of their vehicles. In some cities, the practice of drivers selling goods from their vehicles is even regulated.

Whether or not you view this as ‘disaster capitalism,’ it is important to understand the extent of the air quality crisis in parts of California. Should you be traveling to the Bay Area or currently reside in the Bay Area, local authorities are urging the public to remain indoors. If you must go outside, ensure that you use an N95 certified respirator to filter out dangerous particulates.

H/T: Recode

Featured image via AirNow/Air Cast AQI.

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