How your hair can help clean oil spills

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Oil consumption in the recent past has been on a high. The amount of petroleum products that we use has increased rapidly over the years. In  2019, India alone used approximately 211 million metric tons of oil. The country was ranked third in the globe with regard to the primary energy consumption.

With this much consumption and transport of oil humans have crated  a lot of oils spills across the oceans. And when you create an oil spill you create another world of environment issues. You are responsible for bringing a complete ecosystem closer to extinction.

Oil spills can happen for a variety of reasons from equipment breakdown, human mistakes, or due to hurricanes.

What happens when oil is spilled into the water bodies?

Every year oil spilled into the waters which can range from a single barrel to gallons. A spill small or large, affects the aquatic and human life adversely. Oil being denser than water floats on it and rapidly spreads as a thin layer on the surface of water. This is called as an oil slick. With time , this thin layer of oil keeps spreading until it forma super thin layer called a sheen.

Oil spills can affect the fur bearing mammals as oil coated furs lose the ability to keep them warm and without proper insulation they can die of hypothermia. Not to say the adverse effects if these animals mistakenly  ingest some of the oil.Fishes on the other hand experience fin erosion, reduced growth rates, declined reproduction rate etc.

Here, we come to the next question, How do we remove the spilled oil ?
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Commonly used methods include oil skimmers, sorbants, dispersants, manual oil skimming and in situ burning . However in the recent years a new method and a really strange is being used by researchers in this field. Use of human hairs to remove oil spills. So, how does one use human hair to remove oil spill?

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Oil is not absorbed by our hair but it is adsorbed , which works really great. in the recent years researchers having been testing to contain oil spills using hair booms or hair mats. Hair is naturally hydrophobic and biosorbant , therefore it repels water and collects contaminants like oil.

How do you create a hair boom ? Simply take some hair and wrap it with a piece of cloth or pantyhose. Every harbor experiences atleast a small amount of oil spill, use of hair booms at harbors and private waters can help keep the waters clean to a great extend. but this is not the conventional method used in case of large oil spills , where gallons of oil is dispersed into the oceans. Professionals use chemical dispersants , burning and skimmers to remove the oils , but this in turn causes  a lot of damage to the  aquatic life. Chemicals can result a permanent damage to the fishes and aquatic life risking even extinction of some rare species. Hair booms causes no such side effects but their use at such a large extend is still to be analysed.

Hair is  also  cheap, easing available, renewable and natural source, making it ideal to create hair booms and barriers to counter oil spills. Some of the largest oil spills in the last decade has been the,

  1. Gulf of Mexico oil spill
how hairs can help clean oil spills
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Registered as one of the largest oil spills in April 2010,the accident began after a spill from a seafloor oil gusher, leading to the explosion of the BP’s oil rig, Deepwater Horizon. The incident killed 11 me and an estimated loss of 53,000 barrels of oil per day in the gulf of Mexico. This oil spill killed thousands of birds , fishes, sea turtles and took years of efforts to cleaned to some extend.

2. The Persian Gulf war oil spill 

how hair can help clean oil spills
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One of the largest oil spill was not by accident , it was a result of war.On August 2, 1990, Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, ordered the invasion and occupation of Kuwait with the apparent aim of acquiring that nation’s large oil reserves. The United states in coalition with British, French, Egyptians, Saudis,Syrians and others entered to dislodge the Iraqis. Although the Iraqi forces retreated , in the process they ignited hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells,which burned for months. The Iraqi’s also released hundreds of millions of gallons of oil from Kuwait’s Sea island terminal into the northern Persian Gulf.

    3.The Ixtoc Oil spill

Mexico’s Ixtoc 1 accident released up to 140 million gallons of crude oil into the Bay of Campeche between June 1979 and March 1980.

These are the only the top three oil spills the world has encountered in the last decade.The most recent of the oil spills was in the Arctic area, when 20,000 tons of fuel from a power plant in Norilsk leaked into a river on May 29,2020.Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a state of emergency on June 3rd . According to the experts , this cleanup could take anywhere between 5 to 10 years.

Use of hairs can be on promising method to clean oil spills.Although the use of hair may not be a reliable and efficient method for cleaning up larger oil spills, one can at least use this method in smaller oil spills and for sure implement them at harbors and docks.

So, the next time you cut your hair ,remember you may be contributing to a cleaner environment.





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