Hair Loss Oil Spills and Sea Turtles - Animals Have Also Benefitted from Hair Replacement Products

TO HELP THOSE WITH HAIR LOSS, THE HAIR REPLACEMENT INDUSTRY HAS TO MAKE PRODUCTS THAT WORK. SOMETIMES, THESE PRODUCTS HAVE HELPED ANIMALS, TOO.

Millions of men and women thank the hair replacement industry every day for helping them find solutions to a wide range of hair loss issues. But did you know that many animals also owe a debt of gratitude to this industry — and not because of any personal hair loss replacement issues they may have?

Hair replacement industry and the oil spill

The recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was an environmental disaster, affecting wildlife over a huge area. One of the biggest problems, of course, has been how to clean up the billions of gallons of oil that have escaped during this crisis, which threatened the health and survival of uncounted numbers of birds, fish and other animals. And, surprisingly, one of the most effective materials in this clean-up process has been human hair, much of which was donated by members of the hair replacement industry.

According to one press release, each of the “hair mats” that was created for this purpose could be reused up to 100 times; after their final use, hair mats could be cleaned out and then could have a final use as a biodegradable natural plant fertilizer. By providing this reusable oil-absorption material, the hair replacement industry helped save not only the wildlife affected by the spill but also the businesses that are dependent on the water and the water creatures in the Gulf area.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see now how hair was an obvious choice as a viable material for cleaning an oil spill. It’s perhaps less obvious to see how an adhesive used to keep a hair system in place could be beneficial to sea turtles — and yet, that’s just the case.

Hair replacement products solve sticky problem

Sea turtles are among nature’s most fascinating creatures, but because they spend so much of their lives deep in the open ocean, there’s a great deal we don’t know about them. Scientists are working to change that, however, and the hair replacement industry is giving some valuable assistance.

Turtles tend to have a lifespan of many decades, most of which is spent in the water. The loggerhead turtle, for instance, makes its way from the beach to the ocean soon after hatching, plunges in and then typically is not seen near land again until it grows from its birth size of 12-18 centimeters (about 5-7 inches) to a healthy juvenile size of about 45 centimeters (about 18 inches), a process that may take 6 to 12 years or longer. During this “growth period,” the loggerhead is far out in the open ocean, doing … well, no one knows what it’s doing, really.

Many researchers are working on getting information about these “lost years,” the time after the hatchling heads out to sea and when it shows up again in coastal waters. The problem, of course, is that humans can’t directly observe the turtles out in the open ocean. Fortunately, there are tracking devices that can be used to collect data on the loggerhead’s exploits, but there is still the problem of getting the device to stick to the turtle.

Kate Mansfield, Ph.D., is an affiliate research professor at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), who is working with Jeanette Wyneken, Ph.D., assistant professor at FAU, on projects involving sea turtles. Mansfield says that she and Wyneken have found success in attaching tracking tags using an adhesive made by On Rite, a wholesale distributor of high-end hair replacement products such as hair extensions, non-surgical hair systems and hair care products.

In 2009 the researchers approached On Rite about donating its adhesive product for use in their projects, and the company readily agreed. “We use a very small, solar-powered tag, and we need a flexible adhesive that will really stick,” Mansfield explains. It not only has to be something that will bond to the turtle’s shell, but also it has to be effective on neoprene, a rubber material that is part of the tagging system; the On Rite adhesive does just the trick.

With the information that Drs. Wyneken and Mansfield obtain, they will be able to add to the store of knowledge about the loggerheads. Learning more about where these turtles go will enable scientists to identify hazards to their habitat and to make their habitat safer. Because all species of sea turtles are endangered or threatened, this kind of information can help to create conditions that are more conducive to increasing their numbers.

(To see a basic tracking page with information on turtles involved in this project, go to: www.seaturtle.org/tracking/?project_id=378.)

In addition to tracking loggerheads, Wyneken is raising leatherneck turtles in a laboratory environment, which is very difficult to do. Leatherneck hatchlings are extremely delicate and are prone to infection; therefore, it’s important to keep them from bumping against the sides of their tanks in the laboratories, which can cause abrasions and infections. Wyneken is meeting this challenge by attaching special “leashes” to the turtles that allow them to swim freely around their tanks but keep them away from the sides.

And how does she attach the leashes to the leathernecks? The same hair replacement adhesive she uses on the loggerheads.

Ultimately, the information gained from the research on these turtles may result in safer habitats and help lift these turtles off the endangered list — so hats off to the hair replacement industry for playing a part in this project. And hats off to those men and women whose desire for hair replacement options led to the development of this adhesive in the first place.