Ad
Get special offers, recipes, health news, PLUS our FREE seafood cooking guide!
Got it, thanks! Click here for your FREE seafood cooking guide & recipes e-booklet.
Food, Health, and Eco-news
Swimmers' Sunscreen Called Major Coral Killer
06/02/2008

Bather-borne chemicals cause coral bleaching and wider damage to marine ecosystems and coastal communities

by Craig Weatherby


Excessive sun avoidance and sunscreen use may contribute to the current epidemic of vitamin D deficiency.


But the beach is one place where light-skinned people really need the UV-blocking chemical creams, or suffer painful sunburns that can promote cancer.


Unfortunately, it now appears like the sunscreen residues that wash off ocean bathers represent a major cause of coral bleaching.


Coral reefs are prolifically productive ecosystems that sustain fish populationsand the estimated one-half billion people who depend on reef-related fisheries.


Sadly, more than half of these critical reef ecosystems are threatened by climate change (i.e., warming waters), industrial pollution, and increasing UV radiation (via loss of atmospheric ozone).


An estimated 78 million tourists visit coral reefs annually, and the implications of this huge number are alarming, in light of new findings about sunscreens' killer impact on coral.


Sunscreen chemicals kill coral very quickly

Researchers have detected chemical ingredients from sunscreens and other body lotions near both sea and freshwater tourist areas.


These chemicals can accumulate in aquatic animals, and break down into toxic byproducts.


The new findings flow from a study ordered by the European Commission, which was conducted by Italian researchers from the University of Pisa (Danovaro R et al. 2008).


The Italian team added measured amounts of three brands of sunscreen to the waters near coral reefs off the coasts of Mexico, Indonesia, Thailand, and Egypt.


Sadly, even trace levels of the chemicals caused coral to discharge large amounts of mucous within two days, while complete bleaching of coral occurred within four days (Mucous release is a known sign of severe coral stress).


In addition, levels of viruses in the water surrounding coral branches increased 15-fold: a finding that comports with the effects of other synthetic pollutants and indicates that chemicals in sunscreen promote latent viral infections in the tiny animals that create coral reefs.


The Italians found that four common sunscreen ingredients “awaken” dormant viruses in the symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) that live inside tiny reef-building coral animals. The ingredients in question are paraben (a B-vitamin complex chemical), cinnamate, benzophenone, and a camphor derivative.


As they wrote, “We conclude that sunscreens, by promoting viral infection, potentially play an important role in coral bleaching in areas prone to high levels of recreational use by humans” (Danovaro R et al. 2008).


These algae sustain coral with energy provided through photosynthesis, and also contribute to the vibrant color that characterizes coral reefs. Without these algae, the coral turns white and dies.


The implications of these findings are alarming, given the following facts:

  • Bathers release about 5,000 tons of sunscreen in reef areas every year.
  • Fully one-fourth of the sunscreen ingredients applied to skin wash off after only 20 minutes of submersion in ocean water.

The lesson seems to be that we should not wear sunscreen anywhere near coral reefs, and instead wear sun-blocking garments into the water.


Sadly, sunscreen avoidance seems an unlikely outcome of the new findings, given that swimming and snorkeling in sunny waterssans shirt and pantsis a primary purpose of most people's tropical trips.


The only solution might be developmentand successful marketingof new, form-fitting, sun-blocking, “coral-saving” garments designed for swimming in warm waters.



Sources

  • Danovaro R, Bongiorni L, Corinaldesi C, Giovannelli D, Damiani E, Astolfi P, Greci L, Pusceddu A. Sunscreens cause coral bleaching by promoting viral infections. Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Apr;116(4):441-7.
  • Than K. Swimmers' Sunscreen Killing Off Coral. January 29, 2008. National Geographic News. Accessed online May 30, 2008 at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/01/080129-sunscreen-coral.html

WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS ARE SAYING:
quote-icon
I would not buy my fish from anywhere but Vital Choice…I’m so happy to have a source for great tasting, healthy fish.
quote-icon
WHAT HEALTH & NUTRITION EXPERTS ARE SAYING:
quote-icon
Vitalchoice.com is my favorite source for wild Alaskan salmon, sablefish, sardines, and other fish rich in omega-3s... I can't tell you how many messages I get from people thanking me for recommending Vital Choice.
quote-icon
WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS ARE SAYING:
quote-icon
Simply put Vital Choice offers the best seafood and related products available. We have always recommended Vital Choice to clients, friends, and family. As health practitioners we value the sustainable practices and trust this company implicitly!
quote-icon
WHAT THE MEDIA IS SAYING:

quote-icon We’ve done the work for you to find the healthiest meat products on the market. quote-icon

WHAT HEALTH & NUTRITION EXPERTS ARE SAYING:
quote-icon
Unlike anything you've seen from the grocery store…I recommend Vital Choice—my personal favorite for delicious, fresh, healthy, and completely safe canned tuna and salmon.
quote-icon
WHAT THE MEDIA IS SAYING:
quote-icon
Vital Box captures the fresh-caught quality of succulent, sustainably harvested Alaskan salmon and northwest Pacific seafood by cleaning and flash-freezing it within hours of harvest.
quote-icon
WHAT HEALTH & NUTRITION EXPERTS ARE SAYING:
quote-icon
I love the stellar quality of Vital Choice salmon! I've been recommending Vital Choice Seafood for many years now.
quote-icon
WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS ARE SAYING:
quote-icon
Vital choice has never disappointed. Love every item I get... since eating your food, my hair, skin, and energy revitalized from clean fish and meats… it’s ALL great. Never a problem with the food arriving in great condition.
quote-icon
WHAT THE MEDIA IS SAYING:

quote-icon The Best Places To Buy Seafood Online, Including Fresh And Frozen Fish quote-icon 

Find out what others are saying about Vital Choice Ad