Sunscreens are Killing Coral Reefs!

When it comes to sunscreen, it seems that it's your health or the coral reefs'. A new study finds that sunscreen ingredients are killing coral reefs:

Four commonly found sunscreen ingredients can awaken dormant viruses in the symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae that live inside reef-building coral species.

The chemicals cause the viruses to replicate until their algae hosts explode, spilling viruses into the surrounding seawater, where they can infect neighboring coral communities.

Zooxanthellae provide coral with food energy through photosynthesis and contribute to the organisms' vibrant color. Without them, the coral "bleaches"—turns white—and dies.

"The algae that live in the coral tissue and feed these animals explode or are just released by the tissue, thus leaving naked the skeleton of the coral," said study leader Roberto Danovaro of the Polytechnic University of Marche in Italy.

The researchers estimate that 4,000 to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers annually in oceans worldwide, and that up to 10 percent of coral reefs are threatened by sunscreen-induced bleaching.

Link (Photo: Department of Marine Science, Polytechnic University of Marche, Italy) - Thanks Jee!


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Meghan, wonder whether the concentration of zinc oxide makes a difference in how your skin reacts? Caribbean Sol SPF 25 has 3.5% zinc oxide and 9% titanium dioxide -- supposedly the lower SPF have less. It's a shame to have to choose between red sunburned nose and red rosacea nose.
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You don't have to choose between killing tiny organisms and killing your own self with melanoma. The sun stuff I use is Caribbean Solutions -- I picked it up originally at a hotel in Florida and liked it so much I buy it on the internets (caribbean-sol.com). It has titanium dioxide and zinc oxide and a bunch of plant extracts and that's it. No nasty petrochemicals. And it works, I live in Colorado, where you can really get fried summer and winter. Some of the health food store brands may be OK -- dunno what's in them, you'll have to read the label.
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