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BP Banishes Hair Booms

Between the passing of actress and ardent animal rights advocate Rue McClanahan and the publication of some heart-wrenching photos of oil-covered seabirds, yesterday was one big bum-out for Mother Nature.
To add insult to injury, I discovered yesterday that BP has nixed the deployment of oil-absorbing human hair and pet fur booms donated by nonprofit Matter of Trust and assembled by hundreds of eager volunteers to help clean up the bad-to-worse-to-total nightmare Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Instead, after initially accepting the hair boom plan, BP has now opted to only use their own synthetic (ahem, petroleum-based) booms claiming that Matter of Trust's hair booms will sink (they don't). Another fabulous, totally eco-logical move by BP!
The Unified Area Command for the Deepwater Horizon/BP Response announces it will not use hair boom in its response efforts.
While this suggestion was submitted to BP as an alternative method for containing and recovering the oil spill, it was not deemed feasible after a technical evaluation.
In a February 2010 side-by-side field test conducted during an oil spill in Texas, commercial sorbent boom absorbed more oil and much less water than hair boom, making it the better operational choice.
'Our priority when cleaning up an oil spill is to find the most efficient and expedient way to remove the oil from the affected area while causing no additional damage. One problem with the hair boom is that it became water-logged and sank within a short period of time,' said Charlie Henry, NOAA’s Scientific Support Coordinator in Robert, La.
Commercial sorbent boom is readily available and scientifically designed and tested for oil containment and absorption on the water. Additionally, response teams are familiar with and properly trained to safely deploy, maintain, recover, and dispose commercial sorbent boom.
Individuals and organizations are asked to discontinue the collection of hair for the hair boom.
We appreciate the overwhelming response from the American and Canadian people who want to help in the response to this spill.
Just great. Given that BP has done such a bang-up job handling the crisis so far, it's encouraging to see that they're flat-out rejecting viable alternative cleanup methods. Matter of Trust founder Lisa Gaultier is mystified as to why the hair boom plot was rescinded by BP, telling USA Today that "they were absolutely cooperative and interested." So what changed?
On her website—republished by Matter of Trust—marine toxicologist and Exxon Valdez vet Riki Ott has this to say on the matter:
The oil industry's approach is to use oil-based synthetic products to respond to oil spills. After use, this results in mountains of contaminated material that need to be landfilled or incinerated. This creates a secondary pollution problem. At least with hair booms and hair mats, natural material is used that breaks down faster and releases less toxins when incinerated or landfilled.
The benefits of removing oil waste with natural fibers largely outweighs the minimal immediate risk to the environment. Also they reduce the secondary pollution concerns that come with using oil-based products, such as only synthetic boom and dispersants.
Ack. The one piece of good news here is that despite yet another idiotic move from BP, Matter of Trust is continuing on with the efforts (just because BP won't accept hair booms doesn't mean that local municipalities along the Gulf Coast won't) so if you've just cleaned house and swept up a big pile of kitty hair, send it on in. It will be used somehow, some day.
Matt Hickman writes about the best ways to go green at home earth for the Mother Nature Network.

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Image via Matter of Trust\n

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