Sunscreen. It’s on everyone’s packing list for tropical vacations, but recent studies have shown that chemicals in them are known killers of coral and marine life. Hawaii just passed a bill to ban the sale of sunscreen that contains two types of chemicals that are toxic to the ocean.
The two killers are oxybenzone and octinoxate and are responsible for destroying oceans around the world. While these chemicals help protect our skill from harmful UV rays, they do the opposite for marine life. Research has shown that the chemicals break down coral by leaching it of nutrients. They also disrupt the development of fish and marine life such as sea urchins and algae.
Around 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotions end up in coral reefs around the world each year. Tourist filled beaches, many found in Hawaii and the Bahamas, have the highest concentration of sunscreen. The damaging effects of sunscreen are powerful too. A study conducted by the non-profit Haereticus Environmental Laboratory found that a concentration as low as 62 parts per trillion can cause damage.
That’s equivalent to one drop of oxybenzone in six Olympic sized swimming pools.
It’s not just people wearing sunscreen into the ocean either. Ocean pollution also happens from wastewater streams sent to the sea. People apply lotion and later wash it off in the shower. That water then gets treated and often put back into the ocean. In other words, it doesn’t matter if people wear sunscreen lotion on land or in the water- it will end up there anyway.
The bad news is that these chemicals are found in almost all common sunscreens. Products sold by big brands such as Hawaiian Tropic, Banana Boat, and Coppertone all contain these chemicals. Many face lotions do too.
There are alternatives out there for sale though. Even the brands above offer various product lines, some without the harmful chemicals. Sunscreens that use ingredients such as titanium oxide or zinc oxide for protection don’t have the same harmful properties. People also have the option of wearing UV protection clothing.
Hawaii has laid out a sound case for its ban on sunscreens containing these harmful chemicals. It raises the question of whether or not the Bahamas should follow suit. Exuma has seen an increase in tourism every year, and the effects can already be seen by the increase in pollution. The ban in Hawaii will go into effect by 2021 once signed by the governor. Hopefully, the Bahamas will follow suit and consider similar actions.
What do you think?