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Yes, We Can Save Our Reefs with Coral-Safe Sunscreens


Coral reefs function like oases in a desert, providing food and shelter for marine life

Source: Nariman Mesharrafa [10]


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Coral reefs are a precious shelter for many sea creatures, but climate change has been a persistent threat to their survival. When seas get warmer, corals react by expelling the algae living in their tissues, thereby turning white, a phenomenon widely-known as coral-bleaching [1].


Around 70% of coral reefs around the world have experienced massive bleaching. What makes this alarming is that these corals are more susceptible to stress and can easily die as a result [2].


Little did we know, we humans have compounded this problem. Yes, we’re talking about sunscreens.


Read Also: Reviving Earth’s Dying Organ: The Coral Reefs


Is this really happening?

Coral reefs that are affected by coral bleaching will turn white and become more vulnerable

Source: Ahmed Areef [11]


Sadly, yes. A recent study has linked oxybenzone from washed-off sunscreens to damage to coral reefs even at extremely low concentrations, including increased bleaching [3,4]. Another study also found that as little oxybenzone as the equivalent of one drop of water in six Olympic-size pools is all it takes to damage the reefs [5].


So picture all the greased up swimmers and surfers at your typical beach on a nice summer day—you can bet there would be more than a drop of oxybenzone floating around.


Not to mention, oxybenzone in sunscreens has also been linked to skin irritations and hormone disruptions [6].


What makes coral-safe sunscreens different?

Chemical compounds contained in sunscreens have been demonstrated to reach detectable levels in both fresh and sea-water systems

Source : Clarissa Watson [12]


A reef-safe sunscreen is a sunscreen free of chemical ingredients that can damage and potentially kill coral reefs, such as, oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene [7].


There are other things to consider, though. To be truly coral-safe, the particles in sunscreens should also be “non-nano” because anything below 100 nanometers can be absorbed by corals, which can disrupt their reproduction and growth cycles, ultimately leading to bleaching [8,9].


Last but not least, always look for a “reef-safe” label when shopping for sunscreens. Haereticus Environmental Laboratory publishes a list of sunscreens that are safe for the environment. Products labeled with “Protect Land + Sea certification” mean they have been verified to be free of pollutants in many different environments.


Most zinc oxide and titanium dioxide-based sunscreens contain nanoparticles that can harm corals

Source: National Cancer Institute [13]


If you now know just how unsafe your chemical sunscreen is for your health, why not make the swap? But remember: the health of our environment is also important. As we all know, coral reefs are vital and by maintaining them, we can take care of our nature. By investing in reef-safe sunscreens, you can protect both your health and Earth at the same time. Talk about a win-win solution!


Nature is beautiful, so let's protect it.


Read Also: Earth’s Superplant: Mangroves vs. Climate Change


Coral reefs are habitat for fish and a part of marine ecosystems

Coral reefs are habitat for fish and a part of marine ecosystems

Source: Hiroko Yoshii [14]


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References :

[1] https://www.projectplanetid.com/post/reviving-earth-s-dying-organ-the-coral-reefs

[2] https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral_bleach.html

[3] https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/what-is-reef-safe-sunscreen.html

[4] https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/ehp.10966

[5] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/10/20/after-sunscreen-protects-humans-it-massacres-coral-reefs/

[6] https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/the-trouble-with-sunscreen-chemicals/

[7] https://www.cnet.com/health/reef-safe-sunscreens-explained/

[8] https://www.greenfins.net/blog/sunscreen-and-coral-reefs

[9] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/features/sunscreen-destroying-coral-reefs-alternatives-travel-spd/


Photos :

[10] https://unsplash.com/photos/i9ReKyKNK6I

[11] https://unsplash.com/photos/EnQd4J45Ffs

[12] https://unsplash.com/photos/lpFTFW9BZSU

[13] https://unsplash.com/photos/vLuLnJD4vKA

[14] https://unsplash.com/photos/9y7y26C-l4Y


#coralreefs #sunscreen #ecofriendly

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