Many nations with rich ecological landscapes are turning to eco-tourism as a means to support environmental and economic prosperity, with coral reefs being one of the leading tourist attractions. “One estimate places the total global value of coral reef based recreation and tourism at 9.6 billion dollars of their total global net benefit.”
Sadly, the same tourists who value these biodiversity hotspots may be unknowingly bringing harm to them by using sunscreens that contain a chemical ingredient called oxybenzone. This chemical has been found to contribute to coral bleaching, a process which occurs when coral polyps expel the symbiotic algae that they host. These algae, called zooxanthellae, are what allow corals to utilize the sun’s energy by means of photosynthesis, provide them with food energy, and also give corals their beautiful colors that we all love so much!
When we lather on sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and then enter the ocean, swimming out to explore it’s beautiful corals, those same corals also become lathered in oxybenzone. According to the National Park Service, “4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen enters reef areas annually.” That’s a whole lot of harmful chemicals. Corals that come into contact with oxybenzone (which has a very high absorbtion rate) become at risk for developing the virus that causes them to bleach. And since everything we put on our skin can also be absorbed by our bodies, in many cases, these chemically packed sunscreens are also promoting the growth of skin cancer and free radical production in our bodies. This is scary stuff !
Here’s the good news...Just Skin Food offers a Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Natural and Organic Sunscreen containing non-nano partical zinc oxide instead of oxybenzone. Non-nano zinc oxide is not micronized, so it is not easily absorbed into the body. Instead, it lays on the skin as a protectant .... and because our ingredients are all natural and organic, they are also eco and reef friendly ! When I recently conducted Marine Protected Area management fieldwork in South Caicos, I used Just Skin Food’s sunscreen to protect myself, as well as the ecology of the environment ... definitely a win-win situation!
More good news : in Hawaii, state senator Will Espero is currently fighting for a bill that would ban the sale and use of sunscreens containing oxybenzone in marine-life conservation districts. Passing such a bill would be a tremendous step toward helping to protect local reefs and ensuring the future of local tourism and the fishing industry. While the use of chemically loaded sunscreens is not the only issue contributing to coral bleaching, it is certainly an undeniable factor, and something that we, as forward thinking individuals, can help to control. When we care about our environment, we take care with our choices.
Will you choose wisely?
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- - written by Serena Iacoviello
- - edited by Lisa :D