On making hairspray great again

over 3 years ago


By Chelsea Henderson, Editor, ClimateEye

At a rally in West Virginia last week, Donald Trump displayed a shocking lack of scientific couth when he waxed nostalgic for the hairspray of old, before the aerosol formula was changed in response to worldwide efforts to stop the depletion of the ozone layer.

"Hairspray's not like it used to be. It used to be real good," Trump joked, fluffing his hair back into its signature style after trying on an honorary miner's helmet presented to him by the West Virginia Coal Association. "In the old days, you put the hairspray on, it was good. Today, you put the hairspray on, it's good for 12 minutes, right?"

Whether intentional or not, in harkening back to the way we used to make aerosols, Trump mocked well-established science and dismissed the Montreal Protocol, the longstanding global agreement aimed at preventing greater damage to the ozone. Back in the 1970s, a couple of scientists discovered a thinning of the ozone, that layer between the Earth and the Sun that acts as sunscreen, protecting us from harsh ultraviolet rays. These scientists eventually attributed the ozone depletion to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), widely used at the time in common household aerosol products such as hairspray and deodorant, as well as fire extinguishers and refrigerants.

The scientists briefed then-President Ronald Reagan, who was deeply concerned. He called his good buddy, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and convinced her they needed to act. Under their leadership, the Montreal Protocol was born. Ratified in 1987, countries agreed to phase out the ozone-harming CFCs, replacing the harmful compound with a new substance. Thirty years later, 98 percent of global CFC production has been phased out, and the protocol is hailed as one of the most successful international environmental agreements. Hairspray didn't come off the market; the formula was changed. The aforementioned scientists were awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

But apparently the support and cooperation of award-winning science, Reagan, Thatcher and the rest of the world is not compelling enough for the presumptive GOP nominee. Maybe he was just going for the easy laugh, but this is the second time on the campaign trail that he's referenced disdain for the phase out of CFCs and the ensuing struggle to keep his orange-ish locks in place. He does a discredit to himself —and science— in the process.

"I said, 'Wait a minute. So if I take hairspray and if I spray it in my apartment, which is all sealed, you're telling me that affects the ozone layer?" Trump mocked. "I say, no way, folks. No way!"

Yes way.

Only Trump knows whether his favorite hairspray is indeed less effective than it was before the elimination of CFCs. But in his promise to make America great again, he should think twice before throwing criticism at a globally significant and successful effort spearheaded by two conservative leaders to combat an international problem. His hair —and his ego— can survive a little deflating.