Why Sunscreen is Harmful for our Oceans

by | Jan 18, 2021 | Ocean Advocacy

You probably have heard that you shouldn’t swim right after you put on your sunscreen. Do you know why?

Why Many Types of Sun Cream are Harmful

Skin protection that contains oxybenzone and octinoxate has harmful effects on coral reefs, marine life, and people. These toxic substances contain nanoparticles that can disturb coral’s reproduction and growth cycle, lead to coral bleaching, or even kill it.

These chemicals can also cause deformities in fish, as well as impact their immune system. Studies have also shown that some types of suntan lotions are directly toxic to certain types of fish – and to phytoplankton, which is at the base of the marine life food chain [download the research here].

When you swim with sunscreen on, harmful chemicals get a chance to seep into the water, where corals absorb them.

And sadly many sun creams and sprays are now being labeled as “reef-safe” when they are not!

Which Sunscreens are Harmful? What Chemicals Do They Contain?

If a sunblock contains any of the following chemicals, they are not reef safe:

  • oxybenzone/benzophenone
  • octinoxate
  • octisalate/octocrylene
  • homosalate
  • avobenzone
  • ethylhexyl
  • methoxycinnamate
  • parabens
  • retinyl palmitate
  • fragrance

Read the label on the sunscreens to be sure you are buying a “reef-safe” sunscreen.

What Can We Do to Reduce the Effect of Sunscreens on Marine Life?

With all the complex issues that our oceans face, it is hard to find useful information that is easy to understand and implement.

A piece of good news is that all skin protection creams and sprays containing oxybenzone and octinoxate are now banned in the State of Hawaii since January first, 2021. They’re not banned anywhere yet – so please pay attention when buying sun blocker.

This short and very informative YouTube video is a perfect way to learn why we need to avoid certain sunscreens and how dangerous they can be. It also gives good alternatives and talks about the small changes we can all easily adopt. It will collectively make a difference!

This is essential information to share with our community of ocean advocates. To learn more and to download a reef-safe sunscreen guide go to www.ReefsAtRisk.org.


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