[Coral-List] New Scientific Study Released on toxic effects

Peter Sale sale at uwindsor.ca
Fri Oct 23 15:36:14 EDT 2015

Gene Shinn & Coral list,
I am definitely NOT a chemist (my excuse -I got a migraine after every organic chem lab for a whole year as an undergrad), however, I read Gene's post on US sunscreens and immediately went to our medicine cabinet to scan the labels.  We had two Canadian sunscreens and both contained oxybenzone as a major active ingredient.  Canada does not always slavishly follow the US, but in this case we appear to do so.  And it would not surprise me if chemical companies with patents on the oxybenzone-bearing products are quietly campaigning to ensure they are not replaced by other products.  (We have occasionally seen this sort of behavior from big business interests in past years, have we not?)

Fortunately there are (European) non-oxybenzone sunscreens available here, and likely also in the US.  David Suzuki Foundation has a page on choosing sunscreens (from perspective of the user's health rather than the environment's) at http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/faqs/toxics/how-to-choose-a-safe-sunscreen/

Looks like there is room for some coral reef scientists, with a better grasp of chemistry than I possess, to look into sunscreen impacts on reef organisms and start making lots of noise if the data indeed support the claim Gene was commenting on.  Personally, I have never, ever understood why divers spend so much time slathering on sunscreen immediately before donning their gear and entering the water.  They are going to be submerged, and therefore in a UV-free zone for the next 45 min or more.  Snorkelers are a different issue all together.

I'd particularly like to know if this is a major issue for reef organisms compared to the other things we do to them.  But apart from that, it might be good for reef scientists and managers to be knowledgeable on this topic and practicing good behavior.

Peter Sale

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