Hawaii is banning the sale of chemical sunscreens from 2021. The reef-rich U.S. state is responding to research showing that chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, found in the majority of ‘traditional’ sunscreens, harm marine environments.
What does this mean?
These chemicals are detrimental to reef environments in a number of ways:
- They increase the rate of coral bleaching. The beautiful colours found within coral reefs are the result of algae that lives inside the corals’ tissues. When the corals experience stress, they expel this algae and leave a transparent residue behind, known as bleaching.
- They damage coral DNA.
- They impair corals’ reproductive capabilities and make it harder for coral to recover after damage.
Why does this matter?
Coral reefs are known for their beauty. But they also perform crucial functions within the planet’s ecosystem. Many other fish and animals rely on them, and losing our reefs will eventually impact the entire food chain, affecting larger sea life such as dolphins and sharks, because their diets rely on reef fish.
Closer to home, the Great Barrier Reef’s outlook has recently been downgraded from ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’.
What can we do?
Choose mineral sunscreen instead of chemical. It uses just one active ingredient — zinc oxide or titanium dioxide — to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays without hurting the reef.
Image credit:Chris Osmond