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Your Hair Probably Isn't Going to Clean Up the Oil Spill--and Neither Is Your Dog's or Alpaca's

Hundreds of volunteers are assembling booms at Boom B Qs

Funny thing about all that hair and fur being shorn around the country to great fanfare to sop up the BP gulf oil spill: nobody wants it. Or at least the people actually cleaning up the oil say it isn’t as good as the store-bought booms they’re using. But that hasn’t stopped people from sending it in and reporters from extensively covering the sweet but so far futile gesture.

Last week the official spill Facebook page, Deepwater Horizon Response,  put out this deeply unpopular message:

We are not using hair booms at this time but are using commercially available sorbent boom when possible. In a February 2010 NOAA field test, commercial sorbent boom absorbed more oil and much less water than hair boom. Widespread deployment of hair boom could exacerbate the debris problem. There is adequate supply of …sorbent boom for now, but we do encourage ideas of alternative solutions by calling (281) 366-5511.

The main group amassing hair, Matter of Trust, does some amazing recycling and has been championing and testing hairmats since at least 2007. The hair, stuffed inside pantyhose, really seems to work. But even they say only the hazmat crews should install and remove the booms. They’re taking the rejection graciously, but proceeding full steam ahead:

BP hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking about the properties of hair, fur, wool and fleece. And they’re a little busy right now…. Matter of Trust is saying officially: “At this time, we are simply providing volunteers the opportunity to make hair boom and stockpile them all along the Gulf Coast, in case BP needs them.” We’re calling it Plan H (H is for Hair).

But let none of that get in the way of a “local people helping in international crisis” story.

Even the Canadians and horses are getting in on it. Well after the word that booms aren’t being used, alpacas are still getting shaved and National Geographic is still doing a story on it. The group collected 10,000 pounds of alpaca hair. Hair is coming from Soho, Petco, and fans of Rachel Maddow. The Miami Herald and  About.com are still pushing haircuts. ZooToo has a how-to story on donating your pet’s hair. Some stories have a teeny disclaimer on the end–oh, yeah, this may not work or be used sort of thing.

All of this is a sweet gesture, like donating blood after a catastrophe. It’s wonderful to see so many people worried about the turtles, pelicans, dolphins and manatees their hair might help. But is it doing any good?

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