By Associated Press Writer
updated 5/24/2010 5:05:22 PM ET 2010-05-24T21:05:22

Like countless beauticians across the country, Ana La Bella has had the hair swept from the floor of her salon, wrapped in plastic bags and shipped off to help contain the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

But the boxes she sent are piling up with hundreds of thousands of pounds of hair, pet fur and fleece in 19 warehouses spread throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida.

BP and the U.S. Coast Guard say they are not using hair to sop up the oil, and don't plan to.

La Bella, who has a chalkboard near the entrance of La Bella Salon telling they are collecting hair for the spill, said she would be angry if the hair is being collected for no reason.

"I would feel responsible for my clients' hair," she said.

The hair-for-oil effort was organized by the San Francisco-based nonprofit Matter of Trust, which after repeated requests for comment by telephone and e-mail released a statement over the weekend saying there had been a misunderstanding with BP.

The hair was collected to make homespun oil boom to contain the ooze as it invades deeper into coastal marshland.

Not feasible
Engineers said they concluded that using the hair was not feasible, and the organizations collecting the hair were asked to stop doing so.

"We foresee a risk that widespread deployment of the hair boom could exacerbate the debris problem," said Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Shawn Eggert in Robert, La., at the main command center.

Mark Salt, a BP spokesman based in Houston, Texas, said the company is using something called sorbent boom, which is made of materials that attract oil, but repel water. The materials are placed in fabric socks.

"There's currently no shortage of this sorbent boom in Louisiana and thus no need to consider the need for alternative products," Salt said.

Maggie Sherman, 31, was glad to have her hair donated — and hoped there was a chance it would still be used.

"In my mind, I think they should be doing everything that they can in every capacity. There's no telling what the chemical dispersant is doing to the environment," she said.

In its statement, Matter of Trust said the boom is there in case it's needed, but they are asking new participants to wait for their alerts before sending more hair to the gulf.

Matter of Trust also said representatives from other harbors have contacted them about using the hair for smaller spills.

"We shampoo because hair collects oil. Why should millions of pounds of absorbent, natural, renewable fiber clippings go to waste every day?" the group said on its website.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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