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Protecting your skin and the ocean

Regular sunscreen can harm coral, it’s inhabitants and us..

A coral reef off the coast of Australia. The coral is beautiful, untouched, a haven for fish, sharks, octopus, turtles, manta-rays… the list goes on! When I last went snorkelling on Ningaloo reef in WA, I was told to use sunscreen sparingly as it can damage the reef, this was news to me!

Did you know that when you swim with regular sunscreen on, chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate can seep into the water, where they are absorbed by corals. These substances contain nono-particles that can disrupt coral’s reproduction and growth cycles, ultimately leading to bleaching. The ICRI (International Coral Reef Initiative) describe these chemicals as “known environmental pollutants” which can be “incredibly toxic to juvenile stages of many wildlife species, including corals, fish, macroalgae and even people”.

Coral and fish at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

Even of you don’t swim in the ocean, it usually gets onto the sand when you spray it on or go down the drain after you shower and still get washed into the ocean.

The world’s coral reefs are in trouble already with warming oceans, pollution, development and now apparently 14,000 tons of sunscreen washing into the ocean each year!

The word is getting out about this harmful sunscreen and on January 1, 2021 Hawaii and Key West, Florida will be banning the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. Palau a small country surrounded by one of the largest marine reserves on the planet has already banned them. It’s only a matter of time before more countries follow suit.

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki explains how a common chemical in sunscreen is damaging our coral reefs.

An alternative to normal sunscreen is reef friendly sunscreen which does not contain these chemicals. SunButter sunscreen is a plant based sunscreen and does not contain oxybenzone or octinoxate. Not only does it not kill the coral but it also won’t seep into your bloodstream. You can buy SunButter sunscreen and zincs here.