[CDHC] New Scientific Study Released on toxic effects of a common sunscreen chemical on juvenile coral

Cheryl Woodley - NOAA Federal cheryl.woodley at noaa.gov
Wed Oct 21 09:12:28 EDT 2015

Hi CDHC-Listers

I'd like to bring to your attention a new study published yesterday in the
journal *Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology* showing
that a chemical widely used in personal care products such as sunscreen,
poses an ecological threat to corals and coral reefs and threatens their

Oxybenzone (also known as BP-3; Benzophenone-3) is found in over 3,500
sunscreen products worldwide, and pollutes coral reefs from swimmers
wearing sunscreens and through wastewater discharges from municipal sewage
outfalls and from coastal septic systems.  Between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of
sunscreen lotion are emitted into coral reef areas each year, much of which
contains between one and 10% oxybenzone. The authors estimate that this
puts at least 10% of global reefs at risk of high exposure, based on reef
distribution in coastal tourist areas.

Toxicopathological effects of the sunscreen UV filter, oxybenzone on coral
planulae demonstrates that exposure of coral planulae (baby coral) to
oxybenzone, produces gross morphological deformities, damages their DNA,
and, most alarmingly, acts as an endocrine disruptor. The latter causes the
coral to encase itself in its own skeleton leading to death.

These effects were observed as low as 62 parts per trillion, the equivalent
to a drop of water in six and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools

Measurements of oxybenzone in seawater within coral reefs in Hawaii and the
U.S. Virgin Islands found concentrations ranging from 800 parts per
trillion to 1.4 parts per million.  This is over 12 times higher than the
concentrations necessary to impact on coral.

*Toxicopathological effects of the sunscreen UV filter, oxybenzone
(benzophenone-3), on coral planulae and cultured primary cells and its
environmental contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands*

C.A. Downs1, Esti Kramarsky-Winter2,3, Roee Segal2, John Fauth4, Sean
Knutson5, Omri Bronstein2, Frederic R. Ciner1, Rina Jeger 3, Yona
Lichtenfeld 6, Cheryl M. Woodley7,8, Paul Pennington8, Kelli Cadenas9,
Arial Kushmaro3, Yossi Loya2

1Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, Virginia, US

2Department of Zoology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv,

3Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering
and the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev, Ben-Gurion
University of the Negev, Israel

4Department of Biology, University of Central Florida, Florida, US

5Pacific Biosciences Research Center, University of Hawaii, Honolulu US

6Department of Life Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

7Hollings Marine Laboratory, US National Oceanic & Atmospheric
Administration, Charleston, US

8Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, US
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, Charleston, US

9National Aquarium, Baltimore, Maryland US

*Corresponding author: C. A. Downs cadowns at haereticus-lab.org
<cadowns at haereticus-lab.org>*


 Benzophenone-3 (BP-3; oxybenzone) is an ingredient in sunscreen lotions
and personal-care products that protects against the damaging effects of
ultraviolet light. Oxybenzone is an emerging contaminant of concern in
marine environments; produced by swimmers and municipal, residential, and
boat/ship wastewater discharges. We examined the effects of oxybenzone on
the larval form (planula) of the coral Stylophora pistillata, as well as
its toxicity in vitro to coral cells from this and six other coral species.
Oxybenzone is a photo-toxicant; adverse effects are exacerbated in the
light. Whether in darkness or light, oxybenzone transformed planulae from a
motile state to a deformed, sessile condition. Planulae exhibited an
increasing rate of coral bleaching in response to increasing concentrations
of oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is a genotoxicant to corals, exhibiting a
positive relationship between DNA-AP lesions and increasing oxybenzone
concentrations. Oxybenzone is a skeletal endocrine disruptor; it induced
ossification of the planula, encasing the entire planula in its own
skeleton. The LC50 of planulae exposed to oxybenzone in the light for an 8
and 24 hour exposure was 3.1 mg/L and 139 μg/L, respectively. The LC50s for
oxybenzone in darkness for the same time points were 16.8 mg/L and 779
μg/L. Deformity EC20 levels (24 hours) of planulae exposed to oxybenzone
were 6.5 μg/L in the light and 10 μg/L in darkness. Coral cell LC50s (4
hours, in the light) for 7 different coral species ranges from 8 μg/L to
340 μg/L, while LC20s (4 hours, in the light) for the same species ranges
from 0.062 μg/L to 8 μg/L. Environmental contamination of oxybenzone in the
U.S. Virgin Islands ranged from 75 μg/L to 1.4 mg/L, while Hawaiian sites
were contaminated between 0.8 μg/L and 19.2 μg/L. Oxybenzone poses a hazard
to coral reef conservation, and threatens the resiliency of coral reefs to
climate change.

Here is the link to the article:

Cheryl M. Woodley, Ph.D.
Coral Health and Disease Program

Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research
Hollings Marine Laboratory
331 Fort Johnson Rd
Charleston, SC 29412
843.762.8862 Phone
843.762.8737 Fax
cheryl.woodley at noaa.gov
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