[Coral-List] ICRS Symposium and sunscreen/personal-care product pollution and coral reefs
info at haereticus-lab.org
Mon May 9 09:25:17 EDT 2016
Dear Coral List Serv.
I want to thank Gene Shinn for commenting on Dr. Woodley's posting (that I
asked her to do because I am internet/social-media incompetent). As always,
Gene made some puissant points regarding personal-care product/sunscreen
pollution on coral reefs.
The first is that chemicals in sunscreens and other personal-care products
(PCPs) are "emerging contaminants of concerns" that contaminate coral
communities and reefs - and are given such consideration even by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency
There have been several papers published in the past year demonstrating
their chemical contamination on reefs. These contaminants are more than
just sunscreen chemicals (e.g., oxybenzone, nanotized, uncoated titanium
dioxide), but include preservatives (e.g., parabens, phenoxyethanol),
surfactants and emulsifiers, as well as binding matrix ingredients (e.g.,
The second point is that these chemical contaminants are pollutants - in
that they pose harm/threat to coral reef organisms at the concentrations
measured in the environment. Dating to Dr. Danovaro's and co-worker 2008
publication of sunscreens causing corals to bleach to last month's
publication by Dr. McCoshum and co-workers (Hydrobiologia (2016) DOI
10.1007/s10750-016-2746-2), building evidence suggests that reefs
contaminated by this pollution are more susceptible to the factors of
climate change-associated diseases, have difficulty in natural recruitment,
and may directly impact demographic survival.
This chemical toxicity affects more than just corals. Many of these
chemicals are endocrine disruptors, and have been documented to cause
feminization of fish, as well as reduced reproductive effort and viability.
And if the brilliant work done by Chen and co-workers encompasses fish
behavior in general, then many of these chemicals may cause dire behavioral
changes to reef fish, potentially posing a threat to the sustainability of
localized populations (Ecotoxicology 2016, 25:302-309). Dr. Diaz-Cruz
recently demonstrated that marine mammals readily absorb these environmental
sunscreen contaminants, and pass them onto their neonates via breastmilk and
placental transfer. Closer to home, this same phenomenon occurs in humans.
Humans are highly contaminated with oxybenzone and other PCP chemicals, and
it is not surprising that we would unknowingly sully our own children with
this chemical soup.
Gene's third point is what can society and governing agencies do to mitigate
sunscreen/PCP pollution. I outline four major strategies for mitigation on
coral reefs (there are others) in an article I wrote in Alert Diver Magazine
- http://www.alertdiver.com/Sunscreen-Pollution . Basically these, four
strategies are (1) ban, (2) social campaign to bring awareness and personal
references, (3) use alternatives to sunscreen lotion products so as to
reduce total contamination amounts, and (4) challenge industry to formulate
I am not sure what policy strategy the National Marine Sanctuaries will
employ, but I do want to point out that the U.S. National Park Service
launched a social campaign several years ago that is implemented at all
their parks with coral reefs (including Biscayne Bay National Park) called
"Protect Yourself, Protect the Reef." The science is moving so fast, that it
would be hard for any govt agency or MPA to have a handle on all the
science. Marine parks aren't the only ones new to this topic. Many
environmental NGOs are also just beginning to recognize the presence and
seriousness of PCP pollution to their environmental mandates. I do want to
applaud the State of Hawaii legislature in proposing a bill to fund science
efforts to remove gaps regarding the pollution of sunscreen chemicals in
State waters. We are hoping that the PCP-pollution workshop and town hall
meeting within the ICRS symposium can expose/update resource managers and
even legislatures regarding the science of this pollution threat (and its
gaps), and what strategies would be most effective within their management
jurisdiction. I think these ICRS events would be a grand opportunity to
have informed discussions with the National Marine Sanctuaries (as well as
other MPAs) regarding (1) determining the extent of the threat to their
MPAs, (2) consider other stakeholder perspectives, (3) formulating
stakeholder-sensitive, but effective management strategies.
I know the organizers of the workshop and town hall events are eager not
just for scientists to attend, but really encourage NGOs and MPA managers to
participate in the events.
Again, I want to thank Gene for raising this issue.
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