[Coral-List] Harmful effects of suntan lotion on coral reefs?

Boland, Gregory S Gregory.Boland at mms.gov
Fri Mar 5 10:01:16 EST 2010

Yes, that paper, Danovaro et al. 2008
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2291018/, was the initial
stimulus for the recent postings and mentioned at the beginning of this
thread.  The paper claimed to demonstrate impacts on corals in situ (in
the title, Sunscreens Cause Coral Bleaching by Promoting Viral
Infections, abstract, etc) by extrapolating exposure experiments in
small plastic bags.  That is simply not legitimate. I would guess the
experiments using Coppertone mentioned earlier were also in small
volume-closed systems as well.

Greg Boland

-----Original Message-----
From: Barb [mailto:barb at undertheseanevis.com] 
Sent: Friday, March 05, 2010 7:04 AM
To: reefball at reefball.com; hreyes at uabcs.mx
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov; Boland, Gregory S;
catherine.head at zsl.org
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Harmful effects of suntan lotion on coral

Wasn't there a paper recently(a year or so ago) that said that sunscreen
reduces the resistance of corals to disease?

Barb Whitman

----- Original Message -----
From: Todd Barber [mailto:reefball at reefball.com]
To: hreyes at uabcs.mx
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov, Gregory.Boland at mms.gov,
catherine.head at zsl.org
Sent: Thu, 4 Mar 2010 15:33:03 -0500
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Harmful effects of suntan lotion on coral

>From practical experience, I can tell you that oil free suntan lotions
do not appear to harm corals.  Several years ago, we traced back the
death of some coral fragments that were being propagated and held for
periods of up to a few hours in plastic coolers to volunteers using
suntan oils that coated the surface of the water and inhibited oxygen
transfer into the constrained water causing stagnation and coral stress.

Switching to oil free suntan lotions for all members of our Coral Teams
that handle corals (especially in tank settings) solved the issue.

Applying this to the ocean setting, the only practical issue of harm to
corals that I could hypothesize is that during warm ocean temperature
days, in areas with limited circulation and low wind, concentrations of
tourists (like when cruise ships unload a mass of snorkels on a small
protected bay) might give rise to lower oxygen concentrations in the
water that might stress some coral.  (As any oil that blocks surface to
air exchange can do).

This is perhaps just another example that as scientists, we need to be
clear about our messages, because when it gets translated to "practical"
applications the message is often distorted (often with only good
intentions).  I find these distortions are often magnified when language
and educational barriers  such as may be the case in Mexico (research
papers don't always translate very well!).


Todd R Barber
Chairman, Reef Ball Foundation
3305 Edwards Court
Greenville, NC 27858
252-353-9094 (Direct)
941-720-7549 (Cell & Goggle Voice)
toddbarber Skype

www,reefball.org (Reef Ball Foundation)
www.artificialreefs.com (Designed Artificial Reefs) www.reefbeach.com
(Reefs for Beach Erosion) www.eternalreefs.com (Memorial Reefs)
www.reefball.com (Reef Ball Foundation)

On Mon, Mar 1, 2010 at 11:00 AM, Hector Reyes <hreyes at uabcs.mx> wrote:
> dear coral listers, is this true? the so called damage to corals by 
> suntan lotions has no real foundation? It would be really interesting 
> that a "coral legend" has been the cause why Mexican marine parks 
> force people to avoid application of any solar protection (sometimes 
> by law; the rule is actually in some management plans), and that way 
> probably are affecting their health by UV skin damage...
> Hector Reyes
> UABCS, La Paz
>> Catherine,
>> There was one paper that was published in April 2008 that 
>> misrepresented the subject title by implying it related to impacts in

>> the field. ?I believe this is the one that stirred some debate at the

>> time and other unfounded implications of actual impact of sunscreens 
>> on corals. ?I posted a comment to the list in May. ?The paper is by 
>> Danovaro et al. in Elemental Health Perspectives. ?This work exposed 
>> corals to sunscreen inside 2 l plastic bags, a far cry from what
would happen in open water...
>> The paper's conclusions directly implied in situ impacts by saying 
>> "up to 10% of the world reefs is (sic) 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." ?As mentioned previously; at best, 
>> "potential" can be claimed, but nothing more without some evidence of

>> actual impacts in open water. ?If there is any new research that 
>> obtained measured signatures of sunscreen in open water next to a 
>> coral with snorkelers overhead, that would be remarkable.
>> 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 
>> Catherine Head
>> Sent: Monday, March 01, 2010 5:59 AM
>> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>> Subject: [Coral-List] Harmful effects of suntan lotion on coral
>> Dear all,
>> I'm looking for information and any evidence of the harmful effects 
>> of suntan lotion on corals.
>> If you know of any papers or research on this topic I'd very much 
>> appreciate it if you could please let me know (email:
>> catherine.head at zsl.org).
>> Many thanks for your attention,
>> Catherine
>> The Zoological Society of London is incorporated by Royal Charter 
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> --
> H?ctor Reyes Bonilla
> Universidad Aut?noma de Baja California Sur Departamento de Biolog?a 
> Marina Apartado postal 19-B, CP 23080. La Paz, B.C.S.
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