How are we unknowingly killing the reefs? – Sunscreen
The sunscreen that snorkelers, beachgoers and children romping in the waves lather on for protection is killing coral and reefs around the globe. A new study finds that a single drop in a small area is all it takes for the chemicals in the lotion to mount an attack. The study determined that a tiny amount of sunscreen is all it takes to begin damaging the delicate corals — the equivalent of a drop of water in a half-dozen Olympic-sized swimming pools — The ingredients Oxybenzone and Octinoxate breaks the coral down, robbing it of life-giving nutrients and turning it ghostly white.
Across the world each year, up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotions are discharged into coral reef, and much of it “contains between 1 and 10 percent oxybenzone.”
Coral reefs are more than just exotic displays of color on the sea bed. They spawn the fish humans eat and protect miles of coast from storm surge. Local economies also receive billions of dollars from visitors to reefs through diving tours, recreational fishing trips, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses based near reef ecosystems.
Oxybenzone is mixed in more than 3,500 sunscreen products worldwide, including popular brands such as Coppertone, Baby Blanket Faces, L’Oreal Paris, Hawaiian Tropic and Banana Boat. There are alternative sunscreens with no oxybenzone, including a product called Badger Natural Sunscreen and dozens of others.
Sunscreen ingredients to avoid;
- Avoid sunscreens containing petrolatum, commonly known as mineral oil, which takes years to biodegrade, and are known to be harmful or fatal to aquatic life and waterfowl.
- Avoid sunscreens with high content of Titanium Dioxide. This mineral does not biodegrade and is found to react in warm seawater to form hydrogen peroxide which is harmful to all sea life.
- Oxybenzone and octinoxate, the two chemicals recently banned in Hawaii and are believed to cause coral bleaching.
Here is a list of sunscreens considered to be reef safe. Made in Hawaii sunscreens are marked with an *asterisks.
- *Kokua Sun Care Hawaiian SPF 50 Natural Zinc Sunscreen
- *Mama Kuleana Waterproof SPF 30 Reef-safe Sunscreen
- *Little Hands Hawaii SPF 35+ All-natural and Organic Sunscreen
- Manda Organic SPF 50 Sun Paste
- *Raw Love SPF 35 All-natural Mineral Sunscreen
- Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen
- All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion
- Babo Botanicals SPF 30 Clear Zinc Lotion
- Suntegrity Natural Mineral Sunscreen
- Badger SPF 30 Unscented Sunscreen Cream
- Raw Elements SPF 30 Certified Natural Sunscreen
- Stream2Sea SPF 30 Mineral Sunblock
- Loving Naturals Clear Body SPF 30+ All-natural Sunscreen
- Banana Boat Simply Protect SPF 50+ Sunscreen (spray, not lotion)
- Olita Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
Not only is it a good idea to use “Reef Safe” Sunscreens, but Hawaii is the first state in the U.S. to Ban the sale of Sunscreens containing the coral-harming chemicals Oxybenzone and Octinoxate which took effect January 1, 2021.
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