Is Your Sunscreen Killing Coral Reefs?
Natasha Poon, Amy Tang
Floor Location : M 129 V
Your sunscreen can trigger the death of a coral reef. Sunscreens contribute to ocean acidification, which causes coral bleaching, a fatal process for 29% of corals. This is a process in which the coral becomes stressed and ejects the algae that lives on the coral, resulting in a white reef. The algae is necessary for the survival of the coral and unless the ocean temperatures are lowered, or the pH level is returned to normal, the coral reef will die. Coral reefs around the world are impacted by bleaching, but limited conservation efforts are made for coral reefs in BC. We focussed on BC corals and tested the impact of SPF 50 sunscreens on the pH level of ocean water. We found that regardless of the active ingredients, the sunscreens acidified the water. The sunscreen that least impacted the pH level of the ocean water was ThinkSport Kids. Although no trend was found in the data, we discovered that even the sunscreens marketed as “reef safe”, acidified the water. Additionally, sunscreens were marketed as Oxybenzone-Free although when we looked at the ingredient list, we found that other chemicals that directly contributed to coral bleaching were substituted Our project shows that popular sunscreens contribute to ocean acidification and sheds light on the need for regulations of the use of harmful sunscreens in areas with coral reefs.