A popular compound found in sunscreen, oxybenzone, is highly damaging to the reef.
“Recent studies have shown that oxybenzone (and octinoxate & homosalate) causes deformities in coral larvae (planulae), making them unable to swim, settle out, and form new coral colonies. It also increases the rate at which coral bleaching occurs. This puts coral reef health at risk, and reduces resiliency to climate change… Researchers have found oxybenzone concentrations in some Hawaiian waters at more than 30 times the level considered safe for corals.” – http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/blog/2016/09/03/nr16-182/
Coral reefs are an important part of the ecosystem. Healthy coral reefs can support more fish life as well as protect the shoreline. Many species are supported in Hawaiian reefs that are not found anywhere else. The effects of coral bleaching are already widespread and can be seen in all the Hawaiian islands.
Coral reefs also provide a significant amount of money for the tourism industry. With over 8 million annual visitors, tourism is the state’s largest industry, and ocean related activities constitute a healthy portion. Our local economy depends on the business that healthy coral reefs attract.
Oxybenzone has also been linked to negative impacts on human health, including both hormonal and skin related effects.
Limiting the sales of sunscreens with oxybenzone and providing alternatives will help prevent further deterioration of the reef. Alternative options are readily available in the form of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide based sunscreens. These products are much safer both for the reef and for human use. Rash guards and wetsuits are recyclable and sustainable alternatives that also block harmful UV rays.
Read the label! Don’t buy products that contain oxybenzone, octinoxate and homosalate.
Hawaii has taken steps to actively reduce plastic bags and their associated pollution and this is another important action to protect our environment. Many other locations such as Mexico and the Caribbean have also joined in the effort to reduce damage to corals by prohibiting such sunscreens. Hawaii should follow in these proactive steps and realize that any small step to preserve the health of the reef could help the coral survive a long hot summer and have the chance to recover.
Information taken from DLNR joint news release and video: http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/blog/2016/09/03/nr16-182/
A link and article to several reef friendly alternatives: http://www2.padi.com/blog/2016/04/24/scuba-diving-and-sunscreen-updated/
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