Last year, a scientific study released last year showed that oxybenzone, a common ingredient in sunscreen, can damage coral reefs. To quote a report on the study:
The researchers found that oxybenzone, a common UV-filtering compound, is in high concentrations in the waters around the more popular coral reefs in Hawaii, and the Caribbean. The chemical not only kills the coral, it causes DNA damage in adults and deforms the DNA in coral in the larval stage, making it unlikely they can develop properly. The highest concentrations of oxybenzone were found in reefs most popular with tourists.And:
Cells from seven species of corals were killed by oxybenzone at concentrations similar to those detected in ocean water samples. Three of the species that the researchers tested are currently listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act.This is bad news for the environment. Coral reefs around the world are threatened by many things: development, fishing practices, and pollution - including, it seems, oxybenzone.
Anyone who has gone swimming, snorkeling or diving with or without kids in places like Hawaii, the Caribbean, Australia, and elsewhere knows that coral reefs are home to a mind-boggling number and variety of sea-life. Protecting coral reefs, while also protecting ourselves and our kids from the sun, is an important task.
So what do you do if you want to enjoy the ocean, and the coral reefs, without killing or damaging them?
1. Use clothing to cover up, even in the water.
Rashguards are a great for both kids and adults to wear at the beach. For my kids, I like the ones that are long-sleeved, or at least 3/4 sleeves, and preferably with a little collar around the neck for extra protection.
2. Use sun-screens without oxybenzone.
Sunscreens with titanium oxide or zinc oxide do not damage coral, and I'm thinking there will be a lot more "coral friendly" sunscreens on the market soon.
3. Find some shade
Even if you're not going in the water, sun-screen residue can still end up in the water, through run-off and sewers. This means that avoiding sunscreen products with oxybenzone even if you're just hanging on the beach is probably a good idea. Some ways to reduce the need for sunscreen is to use hats, cover-ups, parasols, beach umbrellas and beach-tents for shade and sun-protection.