Hawaii is well known for its amazing surf breaks, palm-tree beaches and coral waters, but in a bid to protect its ocean has motioned to ban chemical sunscreen from 2021.
"The reef-rich U.S. state is responding to research showing that chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, found in the majority of ‘traditional’ sunscreens, harm marine environments, which is a major tourism attraction," reveals Ocean Australia co-founder William Cook. "This move is something that other well-known coral waters are campaigning for and requesting that tourists refrain from using chemical sunscreens."
How do the chemicals in sunscreen impact the reef ecosystem?
"The reason coral exhibit a diversity in colour is due to the algae that live inside their tissues. When coral is exposed to stress, caused by some chemical ingredients found in sunscreen, the algae are bleached and so is the colour. The result is called coral bleaching, which not only leaves the coral pale but damages the DNA and impairs the ability of the coral to reproduce and recover from damage," William tells.
"This significantly impacts the health of the ecosystem and the other ocean life that interacts with the coral. If we lose our reefs, which is already happening in the Great Barrier Reef, we will see the ocean food chain impacted, affecting larger sea-life such as dolphins and sharks whose diets rely on reef fish."
What can we do?
"If we switch to a mineral sunscreen which uses only one active ingredient, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, we not only protect our own skin from chemicals and remain sun-safe, we also prevent further harm to the reef," William says.
"If more reefs become protected from chemical sunscreens, there may be hope for a revival of coral reefs, clearer waters and an improved ecosystem for future generations to come."