St. John Tradewinds News

Sunscreen and Coral Reefs

Photo courtesy of Change.org and the petition to ban the sale of coral damaging sunscreen in the U.S. Virgin Islands. [hr gap=”1″]

Did you ever stop to wonder about the sunblock that you are using? What kinds of chemicals are in there?

Potential health effects aside, do you realize that your sunscreen choice may be a contributing factor that is killing our coral reefs?

Oxybenzone, a common sunscreen ingredient, has been shown in lab tests to severely damage coral and marine life. A 2015 study, using samples from coral reefs here in the Virgin Islands as well as Hawaii and Israel, directly links oxybenzone to the declining health of reefs popular with tourists.

In the tests, cells from seven different coral species were killed by oxybenzone concentrations similar to levels the scientists detected around reefs during their dives. In addition to coral bleaching, which kills the animal, the researchers found that coral polyps could not disperse when oxybenzone levels were high, preventing them from spreading to form new growth.

Although more research is still needed to understand exactly what happens when someone wearing sunscreen goes snorkeling over a reef, oxybenzone is not a good chemical to be adding to the ocean. If you own sunscreen products containing it, please do not wear them to the beach.

The good news is, there are alternatives — more than 200 varieties of sunblock are available that do not contain oxybenzone. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a web page that lists sunblock products that are not harmful to the environment.

Visit www.ewg.org/sunsafety/astore.php to see the list.

Wetsuits and rashguards will also block UV rays without adding harmful chemicals to the ocean. Our local water sports shops have lots of options to help you cover up without sunblock.

Lease ask our local VI Senators to ban the sale of sunblock with oxybenzone in them. If you live outside the Virgin Islands, you can also ask your local legislators to ban the sale of these sunblock products.

Coral reefs play a huge part in the worldwide ecosystem. Once they are gone, we may be gone too. There are many other factors already endangering them — we do not need more! Please do your part to educate others about the potential environmental harm of these sunscreen products, and avoid damaging our reefs.

For a greener tomorrow,
Dan Boyd
Lovango Cay

Dan Boyd of Island Solar is a Virgin Islands Energy Office authorized vendor. For more information, call Boyd on his cell phone at 340-626-9685 or by email at islandsolarvi@gmail.com.