[Coral-List] [EXTERNAL] Re: effect of sunscreen on corals

Bargar, Timothy tbargar at usgs.gov
Wed Feb 6 14:28:51 UTC 2019

Mike - I agree that I don't understand the basis for Professor Hughes'
article.  Perhaps he is saying the bans on the use of some sunscreen
chemicals is premature because of uncertainty about large scale effects?

A number of articles have demonstrated that, given sufficient exposure,
some active ingredients are harmful to aquatic organisms, not just corals.
The key phrase is "sufficient exposure".  To quote Paracelsus, "sola dosis
facit venenum", or, "the dose makes the poison".  In other words, at some
point, the chemicals could result in a toxic response.  Many studies of the
toxicity for sunscreen chemicals, not just the ones referenced by Professor
Hughes, have exposed organisms to concentrations greater than what has been
reported for marine surface waters.  But, some of the data in those
studies, particularly in the articles by Craig Downs, show a response by
coral at exposures close to some of the higher concentrations we found in
the USVI.  In my humble opinion, this is not enough to suggest widespread
risk, but it is sufficient to merit further investigation.

On Tue, Feb 5, 2019 at 5:21 PM Risk, Michael via Coral-List <
coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:

> Hi Doug.
> I find this screed by Terry to be deeply disappointing. Not only is it
> scientifically misleading, it epitomizes an attitude all too common among
> reef biologists, namely: "the most important stress on coral reefs is the
> one on which I am personally working." This attitude prompted my by-now
> ancient paper, Paradise Lost-not only has little changed since then, it
> seems things are even worse.
> Now, to the science.
> I urge you all to read one of the key papers, Downs et al 2016 Arch Env
> Contam Toxic 70: 265. It is simply not true that authors bathed their
> corals in unrealistically high concentrations of oxybenzone, nor is it true
> they lack real-world data. They report high concentrations of oxybenzone in
> VI waters, along with zero coral recruitment. This stuff is death to coral
> larvae, at unbelievably low concentrations.
> We need here to beware of some sort of false dichotomy. No one is saying,
> forego sunscreens. American readers will be surprised (or not) to learn
> that Europe banned the use of the known carcinogen oxybenzone in
> sunscreens, but American companies were allowed to get away with it. The
> research mentioned above has come under heavy criticism from the chemical
> industry in the US, quelle surprise. The answer is quite simple: avoid
> sunscreens that contain oxybenzone.
> Criticisms of the research seem based not so much on genuine scientific
> issues as some sort of zero-sum game attitude, that attention to sunscreen
> will detract from whatever flavour of the month turns your particular
> crank. This is a small thing we can all do for reefs whilst still working
> on the big things.
> Full disclosure: Craig Downs is a friend of mine, and in my opinion a
> brilliant scientist.
> Mike
> ________________________________________
> From: Coral-List [coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] on behalf of
> Douglas Fenner via Coral-List [coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov]
> Sent: February 5, 2019 1:18 AM
> To: coral list
> Subject: [Coral-List] effect of sunscreen on corals
> There's insufficient evidence your sunscreen harms coral reefs.
> By Terry Hughes
> https://theconversation.com/theres-insufficient-evidence-your-sunscreen-harms-coral-reefs-109567
> Open-access.
> Cheers,  Doug
> --
> Douglas Fenner
> Ocean Associates, Inc. Contractor
> NOAA Fisheries Service
> Pacific Islands Regional Office
> Honolulu
> and:
> Consultant
> PO Box 7390
> Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA
> How to win public support for a global carbon tax
> https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00124-x
> Global warming will happen faster than we think.
> https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07586-5
> Nations falling short of emissions cuts set by Paris climate pact, analysis
> finds
> http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/11/nations-falling-short-emissions-cuts-set-paris-climate-pact-analysis-finds?utm_campaign=news_daily_2018-11-28&et_rid=17045989&et_cid=2515903
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Tim Bargar, Ph.D.
Research Ecotoxicologist
The USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
7920 NW 71st Street
Gainesville, Florida 32653
T - (352) 264-3520
F - (352) 378-4956

"Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it's in your power to
help them."

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