Oil Spill Meets Match with Hair Mats

The newest fashion in hair salons from Harvest, Ala., to Kalamazoo, Mich., has nothing to do with what's left on the head. It's what's left on the floor that counts.

Hair is being collected to help fight the huge Gulf oil spill, CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone reports.

Complete Coverage: Disaster in the Gulf

"Hair is one of the most absorbent materials out there," one Texan stylist said.

In San Francisco, human hair demonstrated its effectiveness for an oil spill cleanup in 2007 when a ship ran into the Bay Bridge and started leaking oil.

When 58,000 gallons of fuel oil spilled from the container ship Cosco Busan, volunteers headed to the beaches armed with mats made out of human hair. The hair mats that soaked up the sticky globs of oil came from a non-profit, Matter of Trust, run by Lisa Gautier.

"I have been affectionately referred to as the crazy hair lady," Gautier said.

Gautier has been collecting hair for just this purpose for 10 years.

But since word of her shipments to the Gulf got out on the Internet, the organization she runs from her dining room table has been overwhelmed by phone calls and e-mails. From exclusive salons to pet groomers, they are signing up to send in hair, and up to 450,000 pounds of it have poured in.

The boxes piled up in front of Gautier's house are just the start. Most of the hair is now being shipped to directly to warehouses near the Gulf.

All over the country volunteers have been signing up to stuff the donated hair into nylon stockings, creating hair booms.

"You're probably going to pick up at least four or five quarts of oil" with one big boom, Matter of Trust's John Thurston said.

The booms have not been deployed in the Gulf, but the effort is already successful in one way. Thousands who felt helpless in the face of this disastrous spill now have a way to help.

To learn more about Matter of Trust or to find out how to make a donation, visit http://www.matteroftrust.org/

More Oil Spill Coverage

BP Exec: Oil Leak Containment Box "Didn't Work"
AP: Oil Blowout Preventers Known to Fail
BP Probe: Blowout Triggered by Methane Gas
Oil Leak Container Touches Down on Seafloor
Pelicans' Brief Success Threatened by Oil Spill

  • John Blackstone
    John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.