The prevalent methods to clean up oil spills rely on synthetic materials and dangerous chemicals. But there is a natural, environmentally sustainable alternative: human hair.
Hair is hydrophobic and biosorbent, which means it repels water and can collect heavy metals and other contaminants, like oil. It’s also an abundant, renewable resource. But the use of hair booms and hair mats for such a purpose hasn’t gone mainstream just yet, especially in the case of large-scale environmental disasters.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 was one of the worst offshore oil spills in US history. For 87 days, hundreds of millions of gallons of crude oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico, killing marine animals and plants, and greatly affecting shoreline communities. The primary methods to contain that spill did not include hair booms. Instead state, local, and federal authorities and BP chose to use more conventional tools — methods that can be costly and just as dangerous to environment as the oil spill itself.
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