Coral reefs are just as important as they are beautiful. They protect the coastlines, nurture and give home to millions of species and ocean life, give a first line of defense to storms and erosions, and even help remove and recycle carbon dioxide from the ocean. In recent studies, sunscreens and the chemicals inside are a major cause of coral bleaching, meaning they lose their inhabitants, skeletal structure, and color. An average of 6,000 tons of sunscreen are released into the ocean annually by tourist. These sunscreens are not biodegradable and therefor are stuck in the waves. Nearly 10% of the current coral reefs are already damaged. Most damaged reefs are located in tourist areas, which is ironic considering the reefs are a main draw for these tourist. Hawaii alone has reported coral changes after almost every tourism season ends.
So what can we do to help? Many strategies to combat and help regain the beauty of our reefs and wildlife that call them home have been thrown out. Mexico, for example, has a ban on all chemicals that ruin marine life in sunscreens on the market. The ecoreserves in America could follow, only allowing sunscreen ingredients that help and not hurt. Many dive shops, marine researchers, and resort operators spread the word to all customers and tourist and only sell sun care that lie within the boarders that are considered safe for the ocean, some even giving them away for free. The US National Park Service recently started a campaign called “Protect Yourself, Protect The Reef” which promotes education about the dangers of sunscreens in the waters. Another option is cutting down the amount of sunscreen we wear. Please, please do not take this as me saying sunscreen does not need to be applied correctly. Sunwear is a newer method of swimwear and has gained a following in the past couple of years. By wearing swimsuits and bodysuits specifically designed to protect our skin from the sun cuts down on the amount of sunscreen we need to wear in turn cutting down the amount that end up in the reefs. Lastly, remember that businesses can only thrive when the consumer buys and likes their product. If we cut out sunscreen that is harmful to the ocean and its life they will make more affordable, accessible sunscreen that is safe for us and marine life. Personally, look for sunscreens without the chemical Oxybenzone which is the main cause of coral bleaching.
Here’s to hoping our government will monitor these products and keep our oceans clean but always remember we have the power to make a difference. Make sure Check the Environmental Working Group sunscreen guide for good suggestions or stop into Salt. We carry Mad Hippie Sunscreen which is a green, physical sunscreen.