Sunscreen products are harmful for the environment and coral reefs - what are your options?
As far back as in 2005, the executive director Dr. Craig Downs of Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, which is a non-profit organisation protecting threatened environmental habitats and resources, found that chemicals in sunscreen have a damaging effect on coral reefs. Especially oxybenzone and octinoxate are harmful and dangerous to marine life. Not only can these chemicals contribute to coral bleaching but they can also change the DNA of corals. An article in the Independent newspaper in May 2018 reported that surprisingly some 3,500 sun protection products containing oxybenzone are still being sold to consumers worldwide, despite the confirmation in 2015 that that around 14,000 tons of sunscreen were causing irreparable damage to coral reefs. Dr Downs had even reported at that time that “eighty-five percent of the Caribbean coral reefs died before 1999 or 2000," which was not caused by global warming but through pollution and contaminants - including sun screen products.
This is one of the reasons why lawmakers in Hawai are planning to prohibit the sale of any sunscreen containing damaging ingredients, hopefully to take effect by January 2021. Encouraged by Hawaii’s courageous measure, the Caribbean island of Bonaire as well as multiple parks in Mexico's Riviera Maya and its surrounding region also plan to ban any harmful sunscreen products which are not biodegradable.
Indeed, we are surprised that many large companies still have not changed their strategy about the contents of their sunscreen products. Currently, small companies are leading the way to offer products without any harmful ingredients, especially for reefs. These companies offer products that do not contain any biological toxins and some are even waterproof for a certain period of time such as Suntribe, Green People, and Badger. However, we think that the best way to protect reefs and our oceans is to wear sunwear and sun protecting accessories. Although your best strategy could be to avoid sun exposure when possible. This is especially important as some sunscreens are harmful even to us as they enter our lungs or food chain- for example, the widely used synthetic long-lasting coconut fragrance. Dr. Craig Downs could even taste traces of the coconut fragrance in a fish whilst having dinner in the Bahamas. Although recent studies of the Havard Medical School states that sunscreen products per se are not necessarily harmful to our health, we think it is better to avoid any chemicals and follow our tips mentioned in this article.
For more information on Heareticus Environmental Laboratory: http://www.haereticus-lab.org/
For more information on how sunscreen is damaging corals reefs: https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/your-sunscreen-destroying-coral-reefs
For more information on study of Harvard Medical School on sunscreen products: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-science-of-sunscreen (please copy and paste this link)
For more information on alternatives and coral reefs non-damaging sunscreen products: https://www.travelandleisure.com/style/beauty/reef-safe-sunscreen