Israeli-American Study Leads to Sunscreen Restrictions in Hawaii to Protect Coral Reefs
Pictured Above: A scuba diver swims in the Eilat Dolphin Reef. Photo by Asaf Zvuloni/Israel Nature and Parks Authority/Flash90.
(JNS) Due to a scientific study conducted in partnership with Israeli scientists, the Hawaii state legislature banned the use of certain sunscreens, citing danger to the state’s delicate coral-reef ecosystem.
A study uniting marine scientists from Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the U.S. National Aquarium, the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory and the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, concluded that oxybenzone and octinoxate— two chemicals commonly used in sunscreen—are harmful to coral reefs.
The study sampled coral reefs off the coast of Eilat, Hawaii, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Researchers determined that the chemicals were founded in the highest concentrations in the coral reefs that were the most frequented by tourists, and that they contributed to bleaching of the reefs, morphological deformities, DNA damage and endocrine disruption.
The good news: Many sunscreen manufacturers are already phasing out the two ingredients in favor of more natural alternatives.
The authors of the study estimated that 10 percent of global reefs are at risk of high exposure, and that the chemicals were found in seawater within the American coral reefs in concentrations as low as 62 parts per trillion—the equivalent of a drop of water in six-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools—and as high as 1.4 parts per million, more than 12 times the amount that would damage coral.