Sunscreen’s Harmful Effects on Coral Reef Systems
On a hot day out on the dive boat, we slather sunscreen on ourselves to avoid baking in the UV rays. Previously, we didn’t give a second thought to jumping in the water with sunscreen on (In fact, waterproof sunscreens are produced for this specific purpose), however we may want to reconsider. An article written by National Geographic in January of 2008 referenced a study that shows some of the common chemicals in the most used sunscreens are in fact stripping the coral reefs of their defense systems. Coral and algae depend on each other to survive, and when these chemicals come into contact with the corals they infect the algae protecting the coral, causing viruses and weakening the coral’s immune system. 4-6,000 tons of these chemicals are being deposited into the ocean directly off of our bodies each year. To put this into perspective, the concentration of coral-killing chemicals in all the oceans is equivalent to that of a drop of water in an Olympic-sized pool. Toxic sunscreen chemicals are called paraben, cinnamate, and benzophenone and expose up to 10% of coral to sunscreen-induced bleaching. 95% of sunscreens use at least one of these chemicals in production, making it difficult to find a sunscreen that protects your skin and is also safe for the reef you are visiting. Stream2Sea, which we use and promote at Key Dives, is one of the few safe options, using titanium dioxide as a UV ray protectant, which has not been found to do any damage to coral life. Another safe ingredient in sunscreen is zinc oxide, although many people prefer those with titanium, as they tend to have a less thick and pasty consistency. Any of us who spend time in the water should do our best to protect the ecosystem around us and never intentionally put a chemical we know is harmful into the waters. Please check out Stream2Sea for a safe sunscreen alternative, either at Key Dives’ store or at www.stream2sea.com! Inspect your sunscreen for the chemicals mentioned and try not to apply these types of sunscreens directly before entering the ocean. Only together can we make a difference!
Please check out http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/01/080129-sunscreen-coral.html to learn more about the sunscreen studies. Additional information and statistics can be found in Time magazine (http://time.com/4080985/sunscreen-coral-reefs/).
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