Sunscreen Could Be Killing The World’s Coral Reefs, Study Says

Just two weeks ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) raised the alarm about the terrible plight facing the Earth’s coral reefs. For the third time in history, the world is in the midst of a global coral bleaching event, the agency said.

“We are losing huge areas of coral across the U.S., as well as internationally,” said Mark Eakin, NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch coordinator, citing climate change and events like the current El Niño as primary reasons for the mass die-off.

A new study published this week is bringing even more bad news about the world’s dying corals. According to researchers, there may be another, oft-overlooked threat to reefs worldwide: sunscreen.

Scientists who conducted their research in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands found that the chemical oxybenzone — used in more than 3,500 sunscreen products worldwide, including those by popular brands such as Coppertone, L’Oreal and Banana Boat — was extremely harmful to fragile coral reefs.

“The chemical not only kills the coral, it causes DNA damage in adults and deforms the DNA in coral in the larval stage, making it unlikely they can develop properly,” a news release reported.

The researchers said even a tiny amount of oxybenzone-containing sunscreen can damage corals. As The Washington Post noted, “the equivalent of a drop of water in a half-dozen Olympic-sized swimming pools” was sufficient to cause harm.

Every year, approximately 14,000 tons of sunscreen ends up in coral reefs worldwide.

“The use of oxybenzone-containing products needs to be seriously deliberated in islands and areas where coral reef conservation is a critical issue,” said lead researcher Craig Downs. “We have lost at least 80 percent of the coral reefs in the Caribbean. Any small effort to reduce oxybenzone pollution could mean that a coral reef survives a —> Read More