Tuesday, April 05, 2005


For decades now, dandruff has been brushed off as myriad flakes of no importance, or only negative importance at best; indeed, dandruff's place in the scheme of things has gone unsung for so long that there are no folk songs, rock songs, operas, novels or myths about the flaky phenomenon, so it comes as no surprise that clouds of dander have been ignored by climate modelers. But no longer.

At last someone with scientific credentials has come right out and said what so many dandruff producers have always secretly suspected was true: dandruff plays a key role in the big picture. Dandruff is “the right size and shape to act as nuclei for ice crystals, which in turn form clouds and rain, and thus could potentially affect weather and climate.” Even now, your very own dandruff could be working to prevent drought. Or causing floods.

On the other head, all those dandruff shampoo makers might be interfering with natural processes, possibly accelerating global warming. Maybe 10 or 20% or even more dandruff in the atmosphere would preserve the ozone layer while preventing all the glacial melting, flooding and hurricanes we've been suffering lately: who knows? (Millions scratch their heads.)

Though in the subject study dandruff is unjustly grouped with pollen, spores, bacteria, algae, fungi and viruses – confirmed troublemakers all – dander does its part in comprising a dust that could make up 25 percent of so-called aerosols (particles in the atmosphere that affect pollution, cloud formation [think rain, drought, flooding] and that can both reflect and absorb radiation from the sun [think global warming]), a dust that is found from Russia's remote Lake Baikal to the Amazon, Antarctica, the Swiss Alps and even down in Greenland ice cores - really ancient dandruff, from long before the dawn of social embarrassment.

And to the surprise of no one with dandruff, as much as 80 percent of the particulate matter collected in the study was biological in origin – oddly ranging from 15 percent over the Swiss Alps to 80 percent from the Amazon and Lake Baikal in the autumn, where at any given time you'd be hard put to find anyone brushing his or her hair.

While he is not claiming that dandruff affects global warming, the scientist who has finally struck a blow for the transcendant role of dandruff said that the tests proved dandruff etc. could easily affect cloud formation because it is comparatively low in density, small enough to travel very far, easily lifted up, lighter than desert sands (sheer poetry) that are carried across oceans and distributed easily around the world.

More proof that everything is interconnected, that a heedless hairbrusher in Peoria could unwittingly be preventing floods in Lousiana while melting glaciers in Alaska. Dandruff is complicated, and the facts aren't all in. So next time you brush off your shoulders, think of what you might be doing to marine life, deserts, big rivers and the people who live at sea level, at least until we know more....

The scientific version

No comments: