Column Date 2006-01-22

The dandruff crisis

So itís come down to this. Now we know that global warming is not just due to exhaust from automobiles and smoke from factories.

There seem to be two other major sources: cows and people.

Letís start with the cows. Scientists estimate that roughly 10% of the energy that a cow consumes is turned to methane gas -- gas that is released either through burping or flatulence.

And since your ordinary cow, grazing in a field, produces 600 liters of methane a day, and there are roughly 100,000,000 cattle in America burping and flatulating at the same time, that amounts to one humungous cloud of methane. Definitely not good for the atmosphere.

Then thereís people.

A new study done by Dr. Ruprecht Jaenicke at the Institute for Atmospheric Physics at Mainz University, Germany says that some very strange and unexpected stuff can cause global warming.

Stuff like dandruff. And microscopic skin particles and fungi shed by people. (Donít panic: itís perfectly normal to shed stuff like skin particles and fungi every day. We just never knew they could cause global warming.)

How, you may ask, does stuff like dandruff and skin particles cause global warming? Well, think back to the cows (see above). Clearly, when one cow burps, it is insignificant. But when 100 million cattle burp, well, I leave that to your imagination.

Same goes for people: dandruff from one person is a minor problem, mainly when his wife notices it on the shoulders of his dark jacket. Dandruff from, say, three billion people (figuring that roughly half the people on earth have dandruff at one time or another) is one disgustingly large cloud of tiny white particles.

So this white cloud of dandruff drifts up into the atmosphere, mixing happily together with the cow flatulence and all the other particles that spew up there from our exhaust pipes and smokestacks. And they all tend to trap heat and warm up the planet.

Itís not a pretty picture.

There are some obvious ways we all can help.

Dandruff shampoo, of course, is a good start. Use it every day. (And think of your children and generations yet unborn when selecting a shampoo. Since dandruff is a chronic condition, you canít just use ordinary shampoo. You have to spring for the extra bucks and buy a shampoo containing tar, zinc pyrithione, or selenium. Like Selsun Blue or Tegrin.)

The second thing we should all do is become vegetarians. Vegetables are not only good for you, they also produce oxygen for us to breathe. The vegetarian Hindus in India have put us on the right path. Unfortunately, they consider cows to be sacred and we all know what cows do to the atmosphere (see above).

But for those of you who must have your meat, who live for weekends cooking at your Bar-B-Q, thereís a third way to help: eat more chicken. More chicken means less beef. And that will not only cut down global warming, but help your cholesterol as well.

I donít think itís a lot to ask of my friends and neighbors to consider using dandruff shampoo and to switch from beef to chicken.

We all need to do our part for the planet.

(Disclaimer: I do not own stock in any dandruff shampoo company, nor have they paid me to include their names in this column. Same goes for Chick-Fil-A. Even though we journalists are poorly paid, we are above this kind of flagrant bribery. Except of course, those of us who get paid to take White House propaganda releases and pretend that itís really news. But thatís for another column.)

©2005 Peter Tannen