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August 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 33, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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A Single Drop of Sunscreen Can Kill Coral

yet Reef Safe’s manufacturer continues to market the killer

from the August, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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At last, coral reefs are finally getting some significant protection. Hawaii and Bonaire have just banned sunscreens containing the sun-blocking chemical oxybenzone. Furthermore, 13 United Nations World Heritage sites have banned sunscreen use onsite.

While the toxic effect of oxybenzone has been known for some time, a 2016 study in the journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology nailed it down. Researchers found solid evidence that the suspect chemical rapidly bleaches coral and slows new growth. They say a single drop in 4.3 million gallons of water is enough to be deadly, and that up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen enter the world's reefs each year. Most sunscreens, including ones you've probably bought in the past such as Aveeno, Coppertone, Hawaiian Tropic and Neutrogena, contains oxybenzone, also known as benzophenone-3.

One study found coral samples bleached completely within 96 hours after being subjected to water touched by hands with only a normal application of sunscreen.

The peer-reviewed study was conducted on reefs in the Virgin Islands and Hawaii by a scientific team from the University of Tel Aviv, University of Central Florida, Hereticus Environmental Lab, University of Hawaii, the National Aquarium in Baltimore and the federal-run National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Their results provided sufficient evidence to lead Hawaii and Bonaire to ban oxybenzone....

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