Sunscreen affecting coral reefs

A person like me needs their sunblock most desperately or will end up like a lobster or tomato (whichever you like :)).

With my upcoming trip to scuba dive “Mekka” Bonaire (yes!!! I know, amazing), I am shocked to find out that my sunblock will cause great harm to marine life on reefs. Corals, just like most of the animals on coral reefs, are highly susceptible to two substances commonly found in sunscreen creme’s and sprays: oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Both chemicals enter the marine environment by washing off your body while swimming, or indirectly via the sand you touch (or accidentally spray on) that gets washed to sea.

This chemical is known to directly enter and affect the DNA of living creatures. It makes coral larvae deform and become sessile (non-motive), which in turn harms reproduction. Also, affected corals are far more susceptible to bleaching events. Source:  OwlCation

This chemical is classified as a reproductive endocrine disruptor. It severely affects hormone balance and reproduction in corals and other marine animals. Including mammals! Studies on rats showed that Octinoxate can impair both neurological and reproductive abilities. Why do we even put this on our skin? Source: Haereticus lab

Bonaire has sustained one of the most healthy reefs in the world and I don’t want to contribute to changing this. Therefore, I want to test one of the most rewarded eco-friendly (real ecology friendly) sunscreen brands for the days I am entering the sea.

[edit: I have not found a Dutch selling point yet though. Shipping from the USA makes the price go up by 50$… Too much. Hoping to find a solution this week!]



Further reading

Scientists argue that both chemicals are also bad for our skin and overall health. Additionally, some of the ‘new eco-friendly’ alternatives contain nano-size minerals like zinc-oxides to block the sun, but these minerals have also proven to be harmful to marine life!

Vogue’s clear explanation of the problem, with additional tips on how to avoid causing harm to marine life with your sunscreen.

Huffington Post on What You Should Know About Sunscreen Chemicals Oxybenzone And Octinoxate.

EWG’s overview of all toxic chemicals and minerals in sunblock creams, including a score of their effects.


4 thoughts on “Sunscreen affecting coral reefs

  1. Ojee, en wat nu????? Verbranden is ook niet goed voor je huid. Daar kan je huidkanker van krijgen. De huid bedekken met kleding en een zonnehoed op is dan misschien het alternatief. Lastig allemaal hoor.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An alternative I’ve found is IslandTribe. It is sold on Bonaire, so that solves my problem. While they elaborate on not using Oxybenzone, it’s not clear whether the product contains Octinoxate. Also, their product description suggests using nano-sized zinc-oxide particles…


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