Wildlife & Biodiversity

One drop of sunscreen can damage a fragile coral reef system, says report

A chemical found in these creams and lotions not only kills the corals but also causes DNA damage in both adults and larvae

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Wednesday 21 October 2015
Reports about harms of sunscreens to our environment have been doing rounds for years now. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Reports about harms of sunscreens to our environment have been doing rounds for years now. (Photo: Thinkstock) Reports about harms of sunscreens to our environment have been doing rounds for years now. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Sunscreens that protect your skin from harsh rays of sun are turning out to be killer creams for coral reefs across the world. A new study by a team of international researchers has shown that chemicals in even one drop of sunscreen are enough to damage fragile coral reef systems.    

In the new research, it has been found that oxybenzone, a common UV-filtering compound, is in high concentrations in the waters around the more popular coral reefs in Hawaii and the Caribbean, two of the regions where this study was conducted. The chemical not only kills the coral, it causes DNA damage in both adults and larvae, making it unlikely that they can develop or live healthy, says a report published by University of Central Florida.

“Coral reefs are the world’s most productive marine ecosystems and support commercial and recreational fisheries and tourism,” says John Fauth of the university and one of the researchers for this study. Reefs are also believed to protect coastlines from storms.

To conduct these experiments, the team exposed coral larvae and adult corals to increasing concentrations of oxybenzone. The researchers discovered that the chemical deforms larvae by trapping them in their own skeleton and making them unable to float with currents and disperse. The chemicals also make corals bleach or lose the normally algae that live inside them, thus making them lose an important source of nutrition.

Other researchers of the study include scientists from Haereticus Environmental Laboratory; the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the National Aquarium in Baltimore; the University of Hawaii; and Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. The findings have been published in journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.  

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