The substance Oxybenzone has been found to have toxic effects on young corals causing endocrine disruption, DNA damage and even death
There is rising awareness globally regarding chemicals contained in sunscreens that cause irreparable damage to reefs, especially in the tropics where researchers have tested high levels of oxybenzone in Hawaii islands’ waters. This is one of the chemicals that have been blamed to kill corals and negatively affect other marine organisms. At the end of the 13th annual Coral Reef Symposium in Waikiki, Hawaii last June, Senator Will Espero said he will introduce legislation to ban sunscreen with oxybenzone beginning in 2018. ‘A ban is the right thing to do in order to protect our fragile marine eco-system. Since our ocean environment is key to our tourism industry and our economic lifeline, banning a chemical substance that harms our coral and other marine animals should be a top priority next year in the state legislature’, he said. There is also a petition running to support his thesis.
Chemicals are a new threat compounding the damage done by climate change
According to a recent study, oxybenzone has incredibly toxic effects on the young corals – it causes endocrine disruption, DNA damage and even death, and a single drop of sunscreen in a small area is all it takes for the contained chemicals to mount an attack. And even though about 80% of reefs in the Caribbean have been lost in the last 50 years, their presence is crucial to the livelihoods of 500 million people in the tropics. Currently, somewhere between 4,000-6,000 tons of sunscreen enters coral reef areas around the world each year, according to the U.S. National Park Service. "If we can reduce the impact, the load of these chemicals on corals, they will be more resilient to climate change," said Director of Marine Safety Mirella Von Lindenfels. Climate change and ocean warming are already threatening the reefs, affecting ecosystems from polar to tropical regions. In East Africa and the Western Indian Ocean, for example, ocean warming has reduced the abundance of some fish species by killing parts of the coral reefs they depend on.