Dawn Dish Detergent for Oil-Slicked Wildlife

Last fall, Dawn dish detergent had an ad campaign mentioning how it is used to clean birds and other wildlife that have been smothered in oil.  Who would have guessed that a few months later rescuers would be depending on Dawn to treat potentially thousands of birds following the oil spill in the Gulf? 

Proctor & Gamble, manufacturers of Dawn, has donated Dawn detergent to The International Bird Rescue Research Center since before the Exxon Valdez spill for the purpose of oiled bird rescue and rehabilitation.  An IBRRC spokesperson mentions why they started using Dawn even before the company began donating the product:

IBRRC has conducted research on most of the commonly available cleaning agents and “Dawn” meets all the criteria we have established for appropriate cleaning agents. Those criteria are the ability to remove most oils, effectiveness at low concentrations, non-irritating to the skin and eyes, rapid removal from feathers (rinsing), and is easily accessible. Procter and Gamble now donates all “Dawn” detergent to IBRRC and other rehabilitation organizations.”

It should be noted that the IBRRC is funded by BP, which is probably why its website casually mentions, “While those responsible for this spill are covering the cost of the Gulf clean-up, you can help…” Nonetheless, IBRRC is working with the Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research Organization to save the affected birds.  (Read this fascinating Audubon article to learn more, especially about how each bird has to be stabilized prior to washing and how birds’ feathers fit together like “Velcro” to form a waterproof barrier.) 

You can adopt a bird through the IBRRC, which then tags the bird with a federal band with a number identifying it as your bird. It must be pointed out here that the IBRRC website had to state, “Your sponsorship of a bird is to help raise and release each bird. You do not actually get to keep the bird.” Are people really this dim or is the clarification necessary for all those who insist on trying to keep wild animals as pets?

At any rate, props go to Proctor & Gamble for donating its product to help with wildlife rescue, even if its fall advertising campaign was never meant to foretell an environmental disaster. I know I’ll be thinking about the cleanup efforts for our feathered friends every time I squirt the bottle.