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Protecting the skin and saving baby corals need not be mutually exclusive





  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / [email protected]

    Sunscreens are just one of several health threats to the coral reefs of the planet. Heated oceans, pollution from industrial chemicals and garbage play a bigger role. For example, consider the estimated 8 million tons of plastic moving into the ocean each year.


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The beach season is in full swing with Americans heading for the seaside to swim, sit, camp, party and generally cool off from the heated cities. And because we are so well trained to avoid the harmful ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer, most beach visitors will be mindful of layering on a lavish sunscreen coating.

This is a healthy and healthy practice for people to bake the sands of California beaches, but it turns out that it's not so good for the health of the oceans if the people covered in sunscreen have a cool one Make a leap into the ocean. A study conducted by an international team of scientists found that exposure to the two most common ingredients in sunscreens – oxybenzone, or BP-3 and octinoxate – is toxic to coral development in four ways. In particular, BP-3 correlated with bleaching, which is a sign of health problems, DNA damage and abnormal skeletal growth as well as malformations in baby corals.

Given the estimated 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen released into the oceans on the backs of humans Every year, Hawaii has taken the extraordinary step of banning the sale of sunscreen with these two ingredients from 2021 onwards. The ban would affect about 80 percent of the sunscreen in store shelves.

This will no doubt be confusing for beach visitors for years to take precautions against sunburn, and now it is said that every push of a tube of sunscreen can hurt the ocean they enjoy. But let's be clear: this is not a call to skip the SPF 50. Skin cancer is a serious and all too common disease; One-fifth of Americans are diagnosed with 70-year-old skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation

Yet, extreme efforts are needed to maintain the health of coral reefs around the world, dying at alarming rates. Coral reefs are not only beautiful, they are also vital underwater ecosystems that support such a great biodiversity. Some scientists compare them to rainforests. The 1,200 miles of Hawaii coral reefs have been in decay for more than a decade, a process that has accelerated in recent years, probably because of climate change.

The good news is that there are reasonable alternatives that block the sun are not associated with the destruction of corals and do not have to stay inside when the sun is out. Products that rely on minerals such as zinc oxide (think of the white movie about the lifesaving and surfing noses) to reflect the harmful rays of the sun are still considered environmentally friendly. Given the demand for sunscreen, it is reasonable to rely on the production of sun creams that are not associated with coral destruction.

This is a good reminder that we take some measures to protect ourselves from a threat can boomerang into another problem. Another example is the liberal use of antibiotics, which has led to the emergence of "superbugs" that are impenetrable to most of our life-saving antibiotics.

Sunscreens are just one of several health threats to the coral reefs of the planet. Heated oceans, pollution from industrial chemicals and garbage play a bigger role. For example, consider the estimated 8 million tons of plastic moving into the ocean each year. New research indicates that this rejected plastic not only smothers whales and seabirds, but also kills corals. For example, a study of 125,000 coral reefs in the Pacific and Asia reported that nearly 90 percent of those born with significant quantities of ocean born plastic were diagnosed. Only 4 percent of the reefs that were plastic-free were ill.

Hawaii may be the only US state to restrict some sunscreens, but its sun worshipers are hardly the only ones bringing these pollutants into the environment. California certainly contributes its share of sunscreen washed off the bodies of all swimmers, waders, divers and surfers enjoying its 1,100 miles of coastline.

The threat of corals by the climate. Change and pollution could be difficult if not impossible to mitigate. The threat of sunscreen is not. Consumers only have to change brands. There is no reason why we can not save our skin and baby corals at the same time.


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