Most people are aware that coral reefs have been deteriorating for years from environmental and commercial threats including pollution, climate change, storms, disease, overfishing and predators.
But you might be surprised to discover as we were at Biome, that a chemical found in most commercial sunscreens is threatening populated reefs around the world.
MOST OF US SLATHER ON SUNSCREEN TO AVOID SUNBURN, BUT EACH TIME WE TAKE A DIP, AROUND 25% OF THE SUNSCREEN WE APPLY IS WASHED OFF WITHIN 20 MINUTES, CONTRIBUTING TO THE ESTIMATED 6,000 TO 14,000 TONNES DISSEMINATING CORAL REEFS GLOBALLY EACH YEAR.Scientific research completed by Craig Downs, forensic ecotoxicologist from Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, has discovered Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), a chemical used in most commercial sunscreens is causing harm to populated reefs around the world. Its UV-absorbing properties are contributing to coral bleaching, and further effecting reproduction and cell growth causing deformities in young coral. Research has found even small quantities of the chemical causes harm with toxicity occurring at a concentration of 62 parts per trillion - equivalent to one drop in six and a half Olympic size swimming pool.
Samples taken from populated reefs around Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands have discovered current concentrations 12 times the advised toxicity rate, leading Hawaiian authorities to propose a ban on sunscreens containing this chemical. Researchers still advocate full sun protection to reduce the risks of skin cancer, however they advise consumers to be aware of the ingredients in the sunscreens they purchase.
SUNSCREENS CONTAINING TITANIUM OXIDE OR ZINC OXIDE ARE SAFE INGREDIENTS FOR THE REEF, BUT OTHER OPTIONS INCLUDE WEARING APPROPRIATE SWIM AND SUN SAFE APPAREL.
As research emerges, brands are starting to market their sunscreen products as ‘reef friendly’. While there are no current regulations governing this term, it’s important to not use this as sole verification. Checking the ingredients is the only way to know if a sunscreen won’t harm coral reefs. STEER AWAY FROM PRODUCTS CONTAINING OXYBENZONE, BUTYLPARABEN, OCTINOXATE AND 4MBC, AND ONLY USE REEF FRIENDLY SUNSCREENS CONTAINING TITANIUM OXIDE AND ZINC OXIDE. Biome stocks a range of natural, non-toxic and palm oil free sunscreens that are 100% reef friendly. For more information about Biome’s range of non-toxic sunscreens visit www.biome.com.au.