Sunscreen is a very helpful lotion, it prevents us from getting burned and decreases our chances of getting skin cancer caused by the sun’s harmful rays. However, many sunscreen products have proven to be a lot worse for the marine environment than we thought. Common brands like L’Oréal, Banana Boat, and Neutrogena, have a harmful chemical called oxybenzone. Oxybenzone works as a bleach towards coral reefs, and coral reefs are very important (refer to my blog post “Dying Coral” in the tab Consequences of Ocean Pollution to read why coral reefs are necessary for human life). The chemical can also disrupt marine wildlife’s development and life.
A family takes a trip to the beach, they’ve just applied a fresh coat of spray sunscreen, they’re having fun in the water as their sunscreen washes off, chemicals like Oxybenzone harm many species of wildlife, but let’s use coral. Oxybenzone acts as a bleach for coral, it breaks down the coral turning it a ghostly white, you may have seen coral turned white and thought “pretty”, reality check, that “pretty” coral is sick and dying. Now you think “But I see white coral all the time”, because coral is literally dying everywhere!
It’s shocking to know that 80% of the Caribbean’s coral reefs are gone, today, now, it’s not going to happen, it’s happened! And the Caribbean is not the only victim, the rest of the world’s reefs are being affected, too.
It’s a good thing there is a solution, now it’s just a matter of spreading the word and being aware. There are some sunscreen brands recently created that do not contain oxybenzone, meaning that these new sunscreens can be easy to apply and still have a positive affect on our wonderful ocean. Learn more on sunscreen brands and what they have that marketed sunscreens do in my post “Choosing a Sunscreen” in the tab What We Can Do to Help.
A scientist inspecting bleached and dying (some dead) coral [top left]
Healthy coral compared to bleached coral (healthy orange-brown, bleached ghosty-white [top left].