Sunscreen Pollution – We’ve all heard about how plastics are destroying our oceans but what about our sunscreen? Most sunscreens contain chemicals that are harmful to marine life and it doesn’t just enter the water when you go for a swim! Each year around 14,000 tons of sunscreen end up in our oceans!
Besides washing off swimmers’ skin and into the water, sunscreen can get into the sea by other means. Many sunscreen ingredients are readily absorbed through the skin. Oxybenzone, one of the most common ultraviolet-blocking chemicals in sunscreen, for example, can be detected in urine within 30 minutes of application. When you flush the toilet or wash off sunscreen in the shower, chemicals from the lotion enter the sewer. Craig Downs, PhD – Marine Safe
These chemicals are destroying some of our most beloved coral reefs but they’re also toxic to algae, sea urchins, fish and mammals.
It can result in gender shifts in fish, in which male fish take on female attributes, while females have reduced egg production and embryo hatchings. In mammals it has been demonstrated to be a potential mutagen and to exhibit procarcinogenic activity. Studies in both mice and rats showed that exposure to oxybenzone increases liver and kidney weights, reduces immunity, increases uterine weights in juveniles and reduces fertility. In recent studies, human couples whose urine contained higher concentrations of benzophenones had a harder time getting pregnant, while men with higher concentrations had higher levels of diseased sperm. Both dolphin and human mothers can transfer oxybenzone to their infants via breastmilk.Craig Downs, PhD – Marine Safe
5 things that you can do to help?
1. Buy ‘Ocean-Safe’ sunscreen. Reef safe sunscreen isn’t currently regulated so some are much safer than others for ocean life. Buy a reputable brand ike this one by Badger.
2. Use less. Apply sunscreen to just the neck, face, feet and backs of hands. This can reduce the amount of sunscreen in the water by 90%! If you do this make sure you also follow no. 3!
3. Wear more. Use UV suits at the beach. Our kids live in theirs permanently during warm weather as they always seem to be playing something that involves water! Look at countries where it’s really hot a lot of the time…they don’t walk around bikini tops and hotpants all day! They wear sun hats, long sleeves shirts and loose cotton trousers.
4. Avoid the hottest time of day. If it’s a hot day then go outside early and then plan indoor activities until 3pm or head into the shade. We often go to a woodland if we want to be outdoors when it’s hot. Trees offer natural shade and are great places for kids to play…check out some ideas here!
5. Demand Change. As consumers we can influence whether manufacturers start considering the damage their products are causing. Email, write, share information with anyone who’ll listen! Just look at how successful the Plastic Free Campaigns have been and continue to be! It’s amazing to see people coming together to make things better.
Stay safe this summer!
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