Your sunscreen might be killing the coral reefs
Check the label of your sunscreen: if it has paraben or cinnamate, you’re better off with a hat instead
Apr 29, 2017
We are all very aware of how hot Manila can get, what more during these recent dog days even when we’re trying to cool at the beach? Truth is, there’s no escape from the sun. And because there is no break from the heat, the least we could do is to be safe from the harmful rays of the sun: we turn to sunscreen.
All year round, most especially this summer, we slather on this protective gear to bring redemption to our skin. After all, we know that wearing sunscreen every day is the easiest way to prevent everything from photo-aging to skin cancer. The fact is, even if we’ve been living in this tropical country for years, we’re not as sun-savvy as we think. There is something about sunscreen we should be wary about.
The sunscreen that we religiously and indulgently apply to our skin at the beach before we go for a swim is slowly killing coral reefs. According to National Geographic, a new study finds that chemicals in sunscreen can awaken dormant viruses called zooxanthellae. These dormant viruses provide coral with food energy through photosynthesis and contribute to the coral’s vibrant color. The chemicals in sunscreen cause the viruses to replicate until their algae hosts explode and when they explode, the coral turns white and dies. Even low levels of sunscreen could activate the viruses and could completely bleach the coral in just four days.
We must also remember that it is not just chemicals in sunscreen that affect the water. So do other compounds contained in the other products we use every day.
So what are sun worshippers like us to do? Reading the label of our beauty products, including sunscreen, is a must. If it has paraben, cinnamate, benzophenone, and a camphor derivative, we are better off wearing a wide-brimmed hat to the beach. Of course, there are other options: we can also buy a natural or organic reef-safe SPF product and wait at least 15 minutes before going to the water. This is to make sure that the lotion is already absorbed by the skin.
If we heed summer’s call, it’s not just asking us to go to the sea. It’s asking us to love the sea truly and take care of it.
This story was originally published in Northern Living, May 2015.