Is Sunscreen Killing Our Coral Reefs?

Chemical in sunscreens linked to bleaching and other coral damage

Sunscreen is good for humans… but apparently not so good for our coral reefs.

Scientists believe oxybenzone, a chemical found in more than 3,500 sunscreens and other cosmetic products, is causing massive damage to coral and coral reefs.

The ultraviolet-absorbing compound causes coral bleaching, damages disrupts coral growth and damages the coral’s DNA.

In a study conducted by numerous institutions, including the US National Oceans & Atmospheric Association, also found that oxybenzone can cause young coral to encase itself in its own skeleton, ultimately causing its own death.

“It pollutes coral reefs via swimmers who wear sunscreen or wastewater discharges from municipal sewage outfalls and coastal septic systems,” says Dr Omri Bronstein from the Tel Aviv University’s Department of Zoology.

“Oxybenzone pollution predominantly occurs in swimming areas, but it also occurs on reefs five to 20 miles from the coastline as a result of submarine freshwater seeps that ca be contaminated with sewage.”

The even worse news is that it doesn’t take much at all to cause damage - a single drop in six Olympic sized swimming pools worth of water contains enough oxybenzone to begin disrupting coral growth.

With around 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen lotions entering coral reefs each year, the impact could be massive.

One of the greatest threats to our own Great Barrier Reef is the Crown Of Thorns starfish. 

Australian scientists are coming up with new and innovative ways to deal with the coral-eating starfish including vinegar and a starfish-killing robot.

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