[Coral-List] sunscreen

Boland, Gregory Gregory.Boland at mms.gov
Tue May 27 11:39:16 EDT 2008

 These alerts seem to continue with absolutely no direct evidence as
indicated in titles.  This one is a perfect example, "Sunscreens Cause
Coral Bleaching by Promoting Viral Infections" is simply unsupported by
the research described in the paper.  The paper's conclusions directly
implied in situ impacts by saying "up to 10% of the world (sic)
reefs is potentially threatened by sunscreen induced coral bleaching."
and "Actions are therefore needed to stimulate the research and
utilization of UV filters that do not threaten the survival."  There is
a big difference from exposing corals to sunscreen in a 2 liter plastic
bag (as was done for this paper) and demonstrating impacts to coral in
the real world.  Open water has a bit more than 2 liters of volume.  At
best, "potential" can be claimed, but nothing more without some evidence
of actual impacts in open water.   

This is the same unsupported extrapolation that occurred with the
bacteria transferred on wet suits reports in the past.  Wetsuits were
inoculated with bacteria cultures and then dried.  Finding bacteria on
them later somehow demonstrated divers are contaminating reefs by moving
from diseased areas to other areas.  There were even suggestions of
closing reefs based on the results that had nothing to do with the
transfer of pathogens from a wet suit to corals in open water on a reef.
Potential; maybe, evidence; none.

Greg Boland

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
[mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Alex
Sent: Monday, May 26, 2008 2:05 PM
To: coral-list coral-list
Subject: [Coral-List] sunscreen

Several weeks ago there was a post about the potential effects of
sunscreen on coral reefs, and some of those who responded said,
essentially, that this was too trivial a matter to warrant any real
discussion. Thus, the issue was dropped. I'm wondering if any of you
have seen the recent article, "Sunscreens Cause Coral Bleaching by
Promoting Viral Infections," in the April 2008 issue of Environmental
Health Perspectives (116:4). In case you haven't here's a link:

While the article seems to raise the issue to a level warranting some
concern, as someone in the marine/dive tourism sector, I'm mainly
interested in practical solutions. Therefore, I'm wondering if the few
coral reef destinations that require supposedly "environmentally-
friendly" sunscreens-typically meaning that they're "oil-free," "PABA-
free," biodegradable or otherwise made from natural ingredients-are
making valid recommendations?

I realize in that in light of stressors such climate change,
acidification, eutrophication and overfishing, tourism doesn't typically
get much attention. However, I'm reminded of the kid throwing starfish
back into the sea after a storm. It seems foolish not to do what we can
when we can.

I'd appreciate the group's perspective so that we can provide a
balanced, science-based view to our readers.


Alex Brylske, Senior Editor

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