The international trade in human body parts is by no means confined to essential organs, tissue and muscle. In fact, one of the most lucrative markets is human hair. On Nostrand avenue in Brooklyn where I live dozens of bodegas and beauty parlors sell top-quality Indian locks for big money–mostly to African American women who want to change their hairstyles rapidly. In this month’s issue of Mother Jones I reported on how Indian temples shave the heads of their devotees and ship tons of hair from one side of the world to another. I attended a hair auction where distributors broke out in to fistfights with one another as they tried to corner the hair market and had a temple devotee shave my own head. So check out the piece here, and don’t forget to see Sonja Sharp’s related story on how some of that hair ends up in the American food supply.

Tiffany at the Grooming Room on Nostrand Avenue curls the hair of her client. She specializes in extensions.
Laborers in a hair factory in Chennai sort through thousands of poinds of hair, remove lice and prepare raw hair for export.
Processed hair is hung on racks to dry before bundled for export.
A tribal man in a small village outside of Chennai has learned to make money collecting shorn locks from barbershops and selling them to international hair suppliers. This cottage industry is entirely tribally run.

Further reading: The New York Times wrote a very interesting piece on how hindu hair became a major issue in the orthodox Jewish community who shave their heads and wear wigs as a sign of humility. When they discovered that the hair was offered in a pagan sacrifice they started to burn wigs.