Your Sunscreen is Killing Coral Reefs

By: | November 6th, 2015

Coral reefs are precious gems and are among the greatest natural wonders of the world’s oceans. Coral not only provide shelter for a wide variety of marine life, but they also provide economic and environmental services to millions of people.

It has long been discussed that coral reefs are in trouble due to climate change and El Nino. However, as per a new study published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, a UV filtering chemical compound found in most sunscreens is killing off baby coral and is also harming adult corals around the world.

The chemical, oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), which is found in over 3,500 brands of sunscreen worldwide, is posing a threat to the planet’s corals and coral reefs. As Dr. Bronstein of the Tel Aviv University (TAU) Department of Zoology reports, “We found the lowest concentration to see a toxicity effect was 62 parts per trillion – equivalent to a drop of water in six and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools”.

Swimmers who apply sunscreen aren’t the only culprits because those who daily wear sunscreen and wash it off at night are also resulting in the widespread decline in coral populations, as that also makes its way into oceans.

The following are some of harmful effects of oxybenzone on corals:

  • Oxybenzone made corals more susceptible to bleaching at lower temperatures, rendering them less resilient to climate change.
  • This chemical damages the DNA of the corals and results in a major decline in coral populations.
  • Oxybenzone causes young coral to encase itself in its own skeleton, which eventually results in its death.
  • Oxybenzone also results in gross deformities in coral.
Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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