WHY SUNSCREEN IS BAD FOR OUR REEFS
One of the first sunscreens was invented by chemist Franz Greiter in 1938. Greiter's sunscreen was called Glacier Cream and had a sun protection factor (SPF) of 2.
It was the Slip Slop Slap movement in the 1980's that made us Auzzies truly understand the damage the sun was doing to our skin and health and just why sunscreen was so important.
Every summer we dutifully slip, slop, slap, and crucially so given Australia has one of the highest rate of skin cancer in the world.
Now have you ever gone for a dip at a busy beach and noticed a shimmery, swirling glaze of run-off on the surface of the water? An estimated 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen is deposited in the world’s reef areas each year.
So what does sunscreen do to the Oceans?
It could be harming marine life in a big way. According to the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, the main ingredient in sunscreens called oxybenzone is damaging coral reefs. The study credits “swimmers and municipal, residential, and boat/ship wastewater discharges” with putting oxybenzone in our oceans, and likens the harmful effects oxybenzone has on coral DNA to that of gasoline.
Coral bleaching has been making headlines in the past few years for destroying large parts of the Great Barrier Reef. Oxybenzone is contributing to coral bleaching (which is also exacerbated by warming oceans) as it damages adult coral but also deforms and kills baby coral, so reefs are less able to regenerate.
Between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of sunscreen end up in reef areas each year. Hawaii and the Caribbean reportedly have oxybenzone water levels that are 12 times higher than the average amount. But swimmers can attempt to stop the damage they’ve done by making a quick switch in their skincare.
How to Find Responsible Sunscreen
The best alternative is sun protective clothing marked with a UPF50+ rating. Much like tscudo our tops can be worn on land and in water.
Environmentally-friendly sunscreen is also becoming easier to find. Rub-in sunscreens (not spray) with active ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium oxide, both of which are biodegradable, are best. So make sure you read the ingredient list to check that oxybenzone isn’t listed if you’re looking for a more responsible sunscreen.
Most importantly cover up and get your skin checked every 12 months
For more on sunscreen and saving the planet take a look at this great article from National Geographic HERE