31 March 2005


From your friends and mine at the Associated Press, by way of Houston, Texas ABC affiliate KTRK, comes the distressing news that dandruff and other biological flotsam are significant components of air pollution:

Want to help reduce air pollution? Try dandruff shampoo. Well, that may be stretching the point. But a researcher has discovered unexpectedly large amounts of dandruff and other flaking skin, fur, pollen and similar materials in air pollutants known as aerosols.

Aerosols, tiny particles in the air, are widely studied because they are an important factor in regulating climate, variously absorbing heat to warm the air and reflecting sunlight to cool it. They are also important in forming rain and snow.

But the amount of cellular material -- bacteria, plant fragments, spores, fungi and so forth -- had been thought to be only a small proportion compared with mineral dusts, clay and sea salt.

Now, Ruprecht Jaenicke of the Institute for Atmospheric Physics at Mainz University in Germany has studied air samples and discovered that biological materials can range up to 25 percent of aerosols in some areas, and as high as 40 percent in others.

. . . .

He estimated that the amount of biological particles in the air, worldwide, annually is 1,000 teragrams. A teragram is somewhat more than a million tons.

Three thoughts came immediately to mind:

  1. Ewwww.
  2. Perhaps Howard Hughes was onto something?
  3. The last line of this article doesn't strike me as at all strange. ("The research was funded by the German Science Foundation.")
Thanks, Fritz.

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