Everyone uses them, they add a protective layer between your skin and the harmful UV rays from the sun which are known to cause sunburns and skin cancer. They split into two categories; Bio and chemical.
Bio products use minerals and other natural ingredients whilst chemical ones use a combination of lab tested chemicals to achieve even better protection. There is nothing wrong with people who want to protect themselves from the sun, however the problem starts where these chemicals dissolve in water. Only a few drops are enough to cause coral bleaching and extinguish colonies and marine life.
What are corals?
Corals are marine organisms, mostly photosynthetic which under ideal conditions can grow, multiply, attract, host and feed all kinds of sea life. There are thousands of species which can get amazing bright colours combinations.
What is coral bleaching?
These organisms are very sensitive to environmental changes especially temperature and water chemistry. They need stability in order to thrive thus stable water parameters is essential for their existence. When corals start dying off the only thing left in their place is its skeleton structure made of calcium leaving just a white bleached underwater desert.
Most commercial sunscreens contain oxybenzone and Octinoxate which is a key ingredient for sun protection. This synthetic chemical turns out to be highly toxic to corals and sealife. A single drop is enough to kill all marine life withing 2.5 million liters of water (6 olympic size swimming pools). In a global scale it is estimated that 14,000 tons of chemical sunblockers is diluted into the seas every year. Sadly enough, this is not the only reef-toxic substance in sunscreen formulas. Parabens like methyl paraben and butyl paraben are fungicides and anti-bacterial agents that extend the shelf life of a product, where as Phenoxyethanol was commonly used as a mass fish anesthetic.
In 2015 sadly there was a worldwide massive coral bleaching event costing us the 38% of world’s coral reefs. More than 12,000 square kms of reef life died in what was characterised by scientists as the single biggest ocean catastrophe in recent history.
Many organisations like ICRI and NOAA started campaigns to promote reef-safe sunscreens and raise awareness.
What can you do?
Buy reef safe products and don’t forget keep the sea and beaches clean.
PS – A dedicated article on Coral bleaching is on its way.
Here is a list of reef safe products for your convenience:
Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen
Kokua Sun Care Hawaiian SPF 50 Natural Zinc Sunscreen
All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion
Suntegrity Natural Mineral Sunscreen
Badger SPF 30 Unscented Sunscreen Cream
Raw Elements SPF 30 Certified Natural Sunscreen
Stream2Sea SPF 30 Mineral Sunblock
Manda Organic SPF 50 Sun Paste
Babo Botanicals SPF 30 Clear Zinc Lotion
Raw Love SPF 35 All-natural Mineral Sunscreen
Art of Sport Skin Armor Sunscreen Lotion
Hello Bello Sunscreen Lotion
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