Are your suncreams damaging coral reefs?
Unfortunately, for over 3500 brands of sun cream around the world, the answer is YES.
For most of us, fun in the sun includes swimming at the seaside, diving, surfing, snorkeling.. and many other activities that revolve around or are located on or near coral reefs. And for most of us, fun in the sun also includes the use of suncream.
However, unfortunately most suncreams on the market contain “oxybenzone” (benzonphenone-3), a chemical that is highly toxic to juvenile corals. And sadly, due to the sheer numbers of us spending time in the coral seas of the world AND using suncream, coral reefs are suffering from the ill effects of oxybenzone-3.
Research has demonstrated that OXYBENZONE effects baby corals in 4 major ways:
1) Increasing susceptibility to coral bleaching at lower temperatures
2) Damaging coral DNA so it that may not be able to reproduce, or produce deformed/sick offspring
3) Disrupting endocrine function (leading to juvenile coral enclosing themselves in their own skeleton, causing death)
4) Causing juvenile corals to become grossly deformed
Impacts such as the above upon juvenile corals will ultimately influence the health of established reefs; in their ability to recover from environmental stress, and in the replenishment and growth of new and existing reefs.
These issues are something that no sea loving or environmentally aware individual would willingly contribute to, if they had the knowledge and the choice. However, a general lack of awareness and limited supply both perpetuates and exacerbates this problem. But the great news is there are more and more products on the market available now that DO NOT use harmful oxybenzone-3, and it’s becoming increasingly easy to access - meaning you can practice good sun care whilst avoiding damaging coral reefs.
OUR RECOMMENDATION is Stream3Sea, they have a great range of reef/fish safe products, as well as a comprehensive list of ingredients to avoid in any skin care. And as time goes by, hopefully there are more and more eco-conscious suncreams appearing on the market. But BUYERS BEWARE – ALWAYS READ THE LIST OF INGREDIENTS, “Reef Safe” doesn’t always mean “reef safe”, and “biodegradable” and/or "organic" does not mean “non-toxic”.
Coral reefs have enough pollutants to battle in order to survive, so just by checking your suncreams ingredients and ensuring they do not contain oxybenzone, or any other harmful ingredients (see image at left) we can each do that little bit more to help conserve the world’s coral reefs!
Text: Lynn Lawrance
PS: For those who are interested, here is a couple of links to research that demonstrate the impact of Oxybenzone on coral reefs:
www.haereticus-lab.org/sunscreen-chemical-threatens-coral-reefs/ (short version)
www.chumbeisland.com/fileadmin/downloads/Textlink-pdfs/Downs_et_al_Sunscreen_research_2015.pdf (long version.. for those keen for the scientific details)