The Truth About Sunscreens and Coral Reefs

By Jean-Michel Cousteau

It’s often called ‘The Law of Unintended Consequences’. The simple explanation for this law is when we do something we believe is good or helpful but there is a counter, unexpected reaction that is not always so good.

That is exactly the case with human sunscreens and the increasingly degraded coral reefs in our oceans. No one can contest that sunscreens are a vital means of protecting our skin from sunburn and skin cancers. We are more aware than ever about the dangerous effects of UVA and UVB rays, and the bronzed bodies some wanted are increasingly a thing of the past.

For divers, fishermen, boaters and those who recreate on our oceans and lakes, this is particularly important because of the reflected and intense direct sunlight to which they are exposed.

English: Pulau Sibu has many excellent coral r...When you buy sunscreen, look at the ingredients. The main components of most sunscreens are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—ingredients that will never biodegrade and have the potential to harm corals and sea life. Some also contain mineral oil (petroleum) which has a low solubility rate in water, is slow to biodegrade and is known to be harmful or fatal to some aquatic life and birds.

You are probably asking yourself, “How can the thin layer of sunscreen I put on my body do significant damage to coral reefs and sea life?” In this case, dilution is not the solution. An estimated 4,000 to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen washes off swimmers’ bodies annually with the potential to cause damage to fragile ecosystems … Read more on

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  1. oceanNRG Herald Weekly: Keeping Coral Reef Aquariums Key to Public Understanding Reef Problems | oceanNRG

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