Did you know that chemical-based sunscreens can be incredibly harmful to coral reefs and marine species?
Sunscreens can contain two different forms of active ingredients to protect our skin, mineral and chemical filters. The sunscreens containing chemical filters including Oxybenzone (aka benzophenone), Butylparaben, Octinoxate, and 4-methylbenzylidene camphor have been found to negatively affect coral reefs and marine ecosystems - and in some cases, even human health.
According to 2016 research in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, oxybenzone and octinoxate, causes coral bleaching and damages corals their ability to reproduce. When corals bleach they lose or expel the algae living inside them, losing a valuable source of nutrition. With 4,000-6,000 tons of sunscreen washing into our oceans every year, these chemicals are causing widespread damage (Downs et al. 2016).
Organizations worldwide have been inspired to take action to limit the use of these chemicals in sunscreens. In July 2018, Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed a bill banning the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. Eco-conscious companies are starting to make changes too; REI have promised to ban the use of oxybenzone in all their products by fall 2020.
Craig Downs, researcher and Executive Director of a the scientific non-profit Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, spoke out on the importance of proper sunscreen use, explaining, “We have lost at least 80 percent of the coral reefs in the Caribbean. Any small effort to reduce oxybenzone pollution could mean that a coral reef survives a long, hot summer, or that a degraded area recovers" (Kotala 2015).
In an effort to conserve our coral reefs and the environment of Andros, IFS will not allow guests to use sunscreens with unsafe chemicals. We aim to protect the reefs of Andros so future generations of students can continue using the space to learn and explore. It's important to remember we can all create sustainable habits to support large scale conservation efforts, and proper sunscreen use is an easy place to start.
Reef Safe Sunscreen Guidelines
- Don't use sunscreens that contain: Oxybenzone, Butylparaben, Octinoxate, or 4-methylbenzylidene camphor.
- Do use mineral based sunscreens with coated, non-nano ingredients like titanium oxide or zinc oxide like the ones found here and here. Also, check out the Environmental Working Groups Guide to Sunscreens.
- Avoid using spray sunscreens; aerosol products also hurt our environment.
- Wear clothing that protects from the sun; UV t-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, hats and rash guards.
Thank you for understanding and taking steps to conserve the reefs of Andros!