Minnesotans are sending peat and human hair to the Gulf of Mexico to help with the giant oil spill. Next on the list? Toothbrushes.
The Underwater Adventures aquarium at the Mall of America has launched an effort to collect new toothbrushes, scrub brushes and towels to send to the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans. The institute is rescuing animals, especially sea turtles, that are beginning to wash up on shore.
Volunteers will work to clean up the oil-covered animals using the donated items, said Carly Byrns, who supervises the animal displays at the aquarium.
"It's a very simple process, but a very time-consuming and long process," Byrns said, adding that rescue workers use dish soap and the brushes to get the oil off.
Byrns said the oil in the water gets on animals' shells and skin, making it hard for them to swim. In the case of sea turtles, which have to come to the surface to breathe, the oil can weigh them down and make it difficult to surface for air.
"Most likely what will happen is they'll wash up onto the shore and then they'll be collected by these rescue groups," she said.
Byrns said the aquarium staff has been paying close attention to the oil spill and wanted to do something to help. Still, she said, the disaster will have a devastating impact on wildlife.
"It will be many, many years before we actually see normal healthy animals in that area," she said.
Mall visitors who bring in new toothbrushes, scrub brushes or white towels for the effort will receive $5 off admission to the aquarium.