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Human hair booms may help Gulf Coast oil spill

May 5, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
For the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster, there will be a 100 ton containment box will be moved into place to try to soak up some of the oil, but there will also be another method to be used to control the spill. It is strange method and has a Bay Area connection.

For 10 years, Lisa Gautier, president of A Matter of Trust, has been called the "crazy hair lady." She has collected thousands of pounds of human hair from hair salons and has been weaving it into giant sausages.

"This was new," says Bob Landsing, a warehouse owner.

Landsing says she has filled 5,000 cubic feet of trailer space.

"Those trailers would contain about 10 cars," says Landsing.

A YouTube demonstration shows how just a pound of human hair can absorb one quart of oil. Ever since the Gulf Coast oil spill, her non-profit website has gone viral.

"Oh, it just exploded. We have a YouTube video and the curb went [up] like this," says Gautier.

"Well, I've been aware that hair is like a sponge. It will absorb anything that you put on it," says Roland from Elevation Hair Salon.

Elevation Salon in San Francisco got an e-mail the day after the spill telling them to begin saving hair.

"And as soon as they had a warehouse, they would send you the address and you would mail it off," says Roland.

Now Gautier says she has 450,000 pounds of worldwide hair headed to 17 sites along the Gulf Coast.

And like a giant dreadlock, the hair boom will be used to protect the beaches along the Gulf Coast.

This weekend, residents are planning boom-making parties. However, environmental clean-up experts say the booms are ineffective in the open water where the slick is the size of Puerto Rico.

"When you have a large sea, you have two types of different boom failure. You can have waves washing over the top of the boom, if the boom is not big enough, and generally you can have waves bigger than any type of boom we currently have," says U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Gus Bannan.

The hair booms can only be used on beaches, but A Matter Of Trust says the U.S. has about 2,600 small oil spills a year and this recent environmental crisis is triggering a green movement.

It is not such a hair-brained idea after all.


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