[Coral-List] sunscreen

Eugene Shinn eshinn at marine.usf.edu
Wed Mar 10 10:41:03 EST 2010

Interesting that the sunscreen issue has such a 
long life. Its long life is likely because the 
results were published in a peer review journal 
and the work did not require funding from any US 
agency. I read the original paper over a year ago 
and made some comments on the list.  I had given 
the paper to someone (a Fellow of the American 
Academy of Environmental Medicine) who knows more 
about viral infections than I. He quickly pointed 
out that the results were not caused by toxicity. 
Instead this was a case, (as Rebecca pointed out) 
where the sunscreen stimulated an immune reaction 
that caused ejection of a virus into the water. 
In theory the virus could cause a chain reaction 
in nearby corals leading an epidemic. That at 
least is the hypothesis which is very different 
from direct toxicity effect. where concentration 
would be the controlling factor. Its more like 
they way humans catch and spread the flu.  I do 
not know if that would happen but it is an 
interesting and scary idea. Because of that I was 
stimulated enough to test the theory further.
      Once each summer a radio station in the 
Florida Keys puts on an underwater music festival 
in the Marine Sanctuary at Looe Key Reef. 
Loudspeakers are lowered into the water from 
boats and music is played both over the airwaves 
and in the water. On a good weather day the water 
is filled with divers "slathered" with sunscreen 
and an oil slick can be observed (if it is calm) 
while the aroma of coconut oil prevails. Last 
summer I went with my medical friend prepared to 
sample water and surface films with Teflon 
sheets. He has a long history of testing for 
pesticides using this technique. Unfortunately it 
was a terrible day with 20 knot winds and only 4 
boats were on the reef, presumably the ones with 
the underwater speakers. We did no sampling and 
the whole exercise was a total bust. Hopefully 
someone will repeat the testing next summer. No 
permit is required to sample water. Similar 
testing could also be conducted on a calm weekend 
at Grecian Rocks reefŠYou can really smell the 
coconut aroma there.  Gene


No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
University of South Florida
Marine Science Center (room 204)
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
<eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Tel 727 

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