Scientists warn against 'hair boom' clean-up appeal

Scientists warn against 'hair boom' clean-up appeal

A campaign to collect hair to produce so-called "hair booms" to use as oil absorbers for the Koh Samet slick went viral on social networks yesterday.

However, scientists warned that the method could create more trouble than it was worth.

The call for hair donations, which was "shared" by many Facebook users, cited foreign experience in using hair booms to absorb oil slicks, including a campaign by a US-based volunteer group who made "hairy sausages" or booms, to soak up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The hair _ human or animal _ is stuffed into nylon tights and placed in affected areas to soak up the oil.

"Our hair can save Samet island," read a message on the Facebook page of ThaiPBS's Nang Pa Pai television programme.

"Please help collect the hair, stuff it in nylon tights and tie it into a chunk, like a sausage. These things can help absorb the oil," the group said, adding people can send the hair to a rescue unit in Muang Rayong district or the Thammasat University environmental club.

The group, however, removed the message in the evening, saying there was no scientific proof that the method was effective in cleaning up oil slicks.

Marine scientist Thon Thamrongnawasawat wrote on his Facebook page that the hair booms can absorb oil in a similar manner to a sponge but can themselves turn into oil-contaminated waste if not disposed of properly after being used to absorb oil.

"For those who want to help clean up Rayong beaches from the oil slick, I suggest we should help collect the oil lumps along the 20-30km shoreline from Ban Pe to Klaeng district," he wrote.

Mr Thon said the oil will mix with sand and turn into oil lumps which are expected to wash up on shore very soon.

Jessada Denduangboripant, a biologist from Chulalongkorn University's faculty of sciences, said he had reviewed articles about hair booms on the internet and found the method should not be used with the oil disaster here.

"These hair booms are effective only in water containment, not in an open sea like in our case," he wrote on his Facebook page.

He said the oil-soaked hair booms could spread the oil slick further if not managed properly.

Mr Jessada said the hair booms would become very heavy after absorbing oil and water, making it difficult to retrieve them from the sea.

By press time last night, many Facebook and Twitter users had posted messages calling off the hair donation campaign.

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