Coral reefs are an incredibly fragile ecosystem, and they seem to be disappearing by the second. Back in 2008, 19% of the world’s coral reefs had apparently already vanished, with expectations that nearly double that amount would be gone in a few more decades. Last year, reports also revealed that baby coral had declined by 89% in the Great Barrier Reef. Concerning discoveries like this have us desperate to do anything we can to protect this underwater ecosystem. As it turns out, one way we can help them is by not wearing sun cream in the ocean.
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All the wrong chemicals
Protection from the sun is essential when you’re at the beach. Too many of us apparently aren’t doing enough to stay safe, with a study revealing that 67% of UK citizens should be using more sun cream at the coast. However, while we might be putting ourselves in harm’s way, it appears that we may be doing some good for the planet. After all, the fewer people there are wearing this stuff, the less damage that’s being done to the coral reefs.
That’s because some of the chemicals in sun cream are incredibly dangerous for this fragile ecosystem. Stuff like oxybenzone and octinoxate, which protect against the sun’s UV rays, lower a coral’s defences. This makes the species vulnerable to bleaching, an issue that eventually leads to the destruction of the ecosystem. So, the more people that go swimming wearing sun cream, the quicker our coral will disappear.
A little does a lot
A significant problem with this discovery is just how much damage one little bit of sun cream can do. Back in 2015, experts found that oxybenzone can cause issues at a concentration of 62 parts per trillion. To put this into perspective, that’s the equivalent of a single drop of water in over six Olympic-sized pools. Although it usually takes a higher concentration than this for things to become problematic, it’s concerning just how low that issues can start to occur.
Apparently, Hawaii already sees concentrations of oxybenzone that are ten times bigger than this, and it’s sun cream that’s causing the problem. The fact that these readings have been taken at the beaches where Hawaii’s coral is most prevalent doesn’t make this any better. If things don’t start to change soon, it won’t just be rising sea temperatures and water pollution that bring those beautiful reefs to an end.
Making the right changes
Thankfully, there are ways to take care of this fragile ecosystem without putting your own health at risk. Although sun cream that contains these chemicals might be prevalent, they’re not the only ones on the market. You can find eco-friendly varieties of this stuff that are made using non-nano zinc dioxide. They might not be as easy to find as the harmful sun cream, but the coral reefs are worth the extra effort. Many, like the products by Green People, will also indicate that they are reef safe.
Alternatively, you could plan your trip to the beach accordingly so that you don’t need to rely on sun cream so much. This includes visiting when the sun isn’t at its strongest – i.e., midday – or finding spots to relax in that are shaded. Protective clothing is also a good idea, with things like sun hats designed to keep you safe from those harsh UV rays.
Although places like Hawaii have started banning the sale of dangerous sun cream, their work alone isn’t enough to protect the reefs. This law won’t come into effect in the US state until 2021, by which point a lot more harm will probably have been done. The only way we can truly keep this ecosystem safe is if we work together and change our own lives for the better.
With so many issues already threatening our coral reefs, the last thing any of us want is to hurt the ecosystem further. Luckily, now that you know about the dangers of sun cream, you can start making a positive difference today. Just a few adjustments are all you need to reduce your impact and help save the reefs. If we can achieve this, then maybe the world still stands a chance.
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