Hair Raising Campaign to Clean Up Gulf Oil Gusher

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Volunteers produced a lot of boom at Felix' Fish Camp, Mobile Alabama, to absorb oil. Photos courtesy of Matters of Trust

Since the Top Kill method has failed, cleaning up the continuously leaking oil in the Gulf of Mexico is clearly a nonstop effort until the gusher is somehow capped. Marine toxicologist and author Riki Ott left her home in Alaska to bring her expertise to the Gulf as well as her experience with the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill 21 years ago, especially in stopping the use of toxic dispersants. As the oil quickly threatens more Louisiana coastline, what can be done to protect the marshlands? Dredging sediment to build barrier walls? Ott suggests oil-absorbing hair mats as one effective method. Feeling helpless, frustrated, infuriated? How can your hair can help?

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Human hair sent to Matters of Trust to soak up the Gulf oil.

Calling all hair cuts, pet fur and fleece. Get your hair salon, barber shop and pet groomers to donate highly oil-absorbent hair/fur to Matters of Trust for hair mats. Highly effective sponges, the compostable hair mat was invented in 1989 by Phil McCrory, a hair stylist from Alabama. One pound of hair can suck up one gallon of oil. The organization, started during the spill in the San Francisco Bay a couple years ago, is now shipping hair to 19 donated storage warehouses on the Gulf Coast from Alabama to Florida.

Hairy Situation

Lisa Gautier, head of Matters of Trust connects business donations with nonprofits. An alternative to mats are hair booms made with pantyhose or tights and filled fur/hair to absorb oil. Also old fleece, feathers, and recycled natural fibers can be used and nylon stockings donated, too. Sign up and join in the campaign.


Star Weaver Farm Alpaca donors from Cabot, PA. Photos are by Jillian Ramsey Stern

With more than 300,000 hair salons in the US, each cutting an average of a pound of hair per day, and pet groomers who trim three pounds per day, plus barber shops, it's a great way to recyce hair waste. The hair/fur collected is made into mats or booms to help mitigate the oil damage with thousands of volunteers signed up for Boom BQ parties to stuff booms. In a closed loop system, the booms can be composted and mats even reused. Oyster mushrooms are grown on oil-soaked mats to consume the oil in about 12 weeks and create nontoxic compost.

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Human hair mat invented by hair stylist.

If you have a useful product for the oil catastrophe clean-up, like Kevin Costner's gizmo, Riki Ott suggests contacting William J. Nichols at the Oil Program Center of the EPA in Arlington, Virginia. The EPA has stopped BP use of some toxic dispersants that pollute the waters and keep the oil from visibly floating to the surface.

Inspired by her father who was an advocate instrumental in getting DDT banned in the early 1970s, the author of Sound Truth & Corporate Myth$ and Not One Drop, has written about the response to the effects of oil-spills on ecosystems, exposing flaws. She told "The Story" on PBS last week about the nightmare that has since prevented herring fishing from returning to Prince William Sound over two decades later.

In Louisiana, Ott's attempting to protect the environment, wildlife, livelihoods and health, and avoid a recurrence of the "Valdez Crud." She's asked for respirators for fellow fisher-people now working on the clean-up, who are starting to suffer respiratory ailments from inhaling oil fumes and chemical dispersants from the fouled waters. So far, they're not forthcoming.

Ott fears hearing the same broken promises being made. With hurricane season arriving soon, the Alaskan storm that blew oil onto miles of pristine beaches could happen again. Could your hair stuffed into those furry worm booms stop it?

More on oil dispersants:
Must-See Video Shows BP Gulf Spill & Toxic Dispersants Underwater
Oil Spill Expert: BP Dangerously Using "Two Conflicting Cleanup Technologies (Video)
From Dispersants to Mushrooms and Hair: How to Clean Up an Oil Spill

Hair Raising Campaign to Clean Up Gulf Oil Gusher
Since the Top Kill method has failed, cleaning up the continuously leaking oil in the Gulf of Mexico is clearly a nonstop effort

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