Through research and education we are learning that the majority of sunscreens on the market are fatal to coral reefs and are detrimental to other marine creatures and our oceans in general. This is yet another stressor to add to the growing number of threats that our oceans have to tackle on a daily basis. This year has been particularly harrowing all over the world with the effects of El Nino hitting the headlines on a weekly basis; water temperatures rising; coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef; huge storms in the Pacific; continents flooding. The list goes on…
No wonder we are concerned with the health of our reefs and the future experiences to be enjoyed in the wonderful oceans on our earth.
Every little helps.
The first step in sun protection before reaching for your sunscreen would be to use a hat and shirt or rash guard and stay in the shade during peak sun hours. If this is not enough and you feel the need to apply sunscreen then please check your purchases wisely.
Products that claim to be safe for corals because they are biodegradable are especially confusing to consumers. These products suggest that biodegradable is equivalent to environmentally friendly, but this is not always the case. Even products that degrade rapidly in seawater remain in the system long enough to kill any corals they come in contact with. In some cases, products state they are nontoxic for corals and other marine organisms despite containing oxybenzone and/or other derivatives of benzene, which are proven to be hazardous to corals. This chemical deforms coral cells, damages their DNA and disrupts coral larvae endocrine hormones causing baby coral to encase themselves in their own skeletons and die.
This report published in October 2015 concludes that: ‘Oxybenzone poses a hazard to coral reef conservation and threatens the resiliency of coral reefs to climate change.’
The only way to determine whether your sunscreen is harmful to the marine environment is to ignore the packaging and look instead at the ingredients. Go through the list until you arrive at the chemical UV filters. The sunscreen will be fatal for the coral and should be avoided if it contains:
- BZ (benzophenone-3)
- BMDBM (4-tert-butyl-4-methoxydibenzoylmethane benzophenone
- MBC (4-methylbenzylidene camphor)
- OMC (ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate)
- OCT (octyl methoxycinnamate)
- BEMT (bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine)
- any component that includes the term –benzene
- Parabens (common preservatives like butylparaben, propylparaben, benzilparaben and methylparaben which is shown to cause coral bleaching)
An alternative is to find a mineral-based sunscreen which uses ingredients like titanium oxide or zinc oxide as a barrier of protection but apparently these nanoparticles cause damage to the phytoplankton and we all know how fundamental that is to the ocean environment!
So what are we looking for? A nanoparticle-free, broad spectrum UVA protection and SPF UVB protection that contains organic photo-stable sunfilters. Phew!
Well after lots of research, I believe that I have found two companies that can produce a sunscreen which is non-fatal to the reef. Hopefully you understand how your choices effect the marine environments that we love and you will be able to purchase your sunscreens before travelling to areas where you play in the sea.
Aethic, based in UK, have offered Damai guests a 15% discount on their Sovee products. Please follow the link https://www.aethic.com/product/aethic-sovee/ and then use coupon code andrimai152016 at the checkout.
They also donate £1 from every bottle sold to a campain called Coral Is Moral. This includes a petition to ban the sales of all toxic sunscreen in UK.
Stream2sea, based in Florida, offer Damai guests an incentive to try their product by using the coupon code DiveDamai to get 10% off their first purchase.
If you know of any other company that offers a good product, or after you have tried any of these products then please give us feedback which we can pass onto others. The more information we have the more we can influence with our buying power. Feel free to comment directly on the bottom of this blog.
Keep diving! Keep the reef safe!
Please follow some links below for more information:
BBC’s ‘Cost The Earth’ project put a monetary value on the natural world’s flora and fauna and estimated that coral reef is worth $9.9 trillion to the global economy. That number included the value of the fishing and tourism economies that coral reef support, as well as its ability to sequester carbon and mitigate storm damage.