Don't forget your sunscreen. It's one of the golden rules of any beach activity. Before stepping out into the sun and taking the waters, wearing sunscreen will ensure that you won't get scorched at the end of the day. Unfortunately, the thing that gives you most sun protection is the same thing that's killing corals and reefs across the globe due to its ingredient called oxybenzone.
What is Oxybenzone?
Oxybenzone is an organic compound often used in plastics to absorb ultraviolet light. The chemical stabilizes and strengthen the scent and color of skin care products. As a UV blocker, it is widely used in the cosmetics industry to prevent damage from exposure to sunlight, mostly in the form of sunscreens.
In the 1980s, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved products with oxybenzone for commercial sale. Starting April 1, 2015, the FDA only allows 6 percent oxybenzone to be used in sunscreen drug products. Experts believe that the revised FDA regulation suggests an ongoing analysis of the chemical's safety on human skin.
Effects Of Oxybenzone On Human Skin
As a UV blocker, oxybenzone slows the growth of dark spots, which are often triggered by UV radiation. It eases sunburns and protects the skin from long-term damage caused by excess sun exposure. Oxybenzone's popularity is widespread, that experts believe it is present in 97 percent of Americans because of its existence in sunscreens.
Effects Of Oxybenzone On The Environment
A study published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology said, "Oxybenzone is an 'emerging contaminant of concern in marine environment." The researchers found that a small dollop of sunscreen in six Olympic-sized pools is enough to cause a disruption of coral growth. The team also found oxybenzone causes planula (larval form of coral) to harden and be stuck inside their individual skeletons. Oxybenzone kills corals and contributes to the increasing rate of coral bleaching, wherein the coral eject the algae that live inside their tissues. This causes the corals to turn white due to the loss of algal pigmentation. Across the globe, almost 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotions are released into the coral reef annually. The oxybenzone content can range from 1 to 10 percent.
"The most direct evidence we have is from beaches with a large amount of people in the water. But another way is through the wastewater streams. People come inside and step into the shower. People forget it goes somewhere," said Associate Professor of biology John Fauth from the University of Central Florida.
How Well Do You Know Your Sunscreen?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of public health and the environment, has published a list of sunscreen brands that contains oxybenzone.
While people can't do without sunblock at the beach and daily sunscreen to protect the skin from the vicious sun, extra caution is needed. It pays to screen your sunscreen brand before purchasing them.