Does our sunscreen kill coral reefs?

Summer is coming in the northern hemisphere and you will be putting lots of sunscreen on yourself to avoid sunburn and, of course, skin cancer. However, your vacation on the beach can actually be detrimental to the marine flora. Scientists at the University of York say the environmental impact of sunscreens on the world's coral reefs should be studied more closely.

Sun protection is an important part of preventing skin cancer and sunburn, but it can have harmful effects on marine organisms. Photo credit: HotlantaVoyeur via Wikimedia (CC.A – 2.0)

UV radiation from the sun causes skin cancer. A simple understanding of this and the popularity of beach culture lead to extensive production and use of skin protection products. And be sure to use sunscreen, because skin cancer is no joke. However, we do not know exactly what happens when you enter water that is in these products and contains all kinds of chemicals.

On the other hand, we know that UV filter chemicals have toxic effects on marine organisms, but we have no idea how high the concentration is and how our summer fun on the beach actually affects ecosystems. Scientists suggest that coral reefs are in decline. They are typically very sensitive to stressors. Climate change and pollution are at least partially responsible for this decline, but it could also be things that we put on our bodies before we go to the beaches. Plus, our products end up in the oceans from our showers in places where water treatment systems are less than great.

Dr. Brett Sallach, who is starting a new study to understand the effects of sunscreen on coral reef health, said, “Our research was aimed at finding out what research was out there and what gaps we had in our knowledge. It was important that we understand which areas may be prioritized for future attention in order to understand the impact of these products and hopefully prevent further environmental damage. "

We're not going to stop using sunscreen – it's absolutely necessary for our own health. However, understanding the negative effects of sunscreens on the marine environment could help us develop new and improved sunscreen products. Policy makers also need this information to describe safety standards and how to focus efforts to protect corals.

There are already studies on the effects of sunscreens on marine organisms. However, they mainly focus on freshwater organisms and ecosystems. Now scientists want to focus on coral reefs that are in dire straits. Hopefully this study will lead to improvements in both sunscreen products and conservation efforts.

Source: University of York

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