Everybody’s not free to wear sunscreen as new research has found that sunscreen dramatically harms coral reefs globally.
Sunscreen is a must during our summer outings and not only. The most efficient way to protect ourselves from harmful radiation and melanoma and other health complications has been found to be harmful for the environment.
After NOAA has released the dire report concerning coral reef bleaching, another study published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology pinpoints sunscreen as another detrimental factor to global reefs.
The study was conducted in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Hawaii, where the enchanting coral reefs are showing signs of growth distress. Blame it on oxybenzone, a chemical compound present in the majority of leading sunscreen brands.
Oxybenzone is an effective UV blocker. It does prevent the occurrence of dark spots and other effects of prolonged sun exposure. However, for coral reefs, it does nothing more than hamper growth, disrupt natural process and aid in the bleaching process.
A press release accompanying the publishing of the study reads:
“The chemical not only kills the coral, it causes DNA damage in adults and deforms the DNA in coral in the larval stage, making it unlikely they can develop properly”.
The most worrying fact is that only a small amount of oxybenzone is sufficient to inflict damage on the coral reefs. 14,000 tons of sunscreen wash away into the ocean yearly, ending up in coral reefs. Beachgoers have a role to play of course. However, oxybenzone ends up in wastewater streams with the same destination.
The findings of the new study open an opportunity window for coral reef conservation in the most affected areas. Some regions have already implemented regulations in this regard, asking tourists and beach goers or scuba divers to not wear sunscreen. Coral reef conservation is indeed a critical matter. Particularly when over 80 percent of the reefs in the Caribbean are gone.
Sunscreen dramatically affects coral reefs globally. As such, stepping up conservation efforts translates into reef recovery and better chances of survival. And this also means cutting the use of toxic oxybenzone.
The authors do not imply that we should stop wearing sunscreen. While most evidence of oxybenzone pollution is related to beachgoers, it doesn’t mean we should stop protecting ourselves from harmful UV radiation.
Alternatively, we could check out a list of environmentally friendly sunscreens, that don’t count oxybenzone among the ingredients. The Environmental Working Group has already compiled such a list.
Save the coral reefs one sunscreen drop at a time, and contribute to healthy ecosystems.
Photo Credits: Pixabay