[Coral-List] [EXTERNAL] an example of sunscreens possibly damaging corals

Bargar, Timothy tbargar at usgs.gov
Thu Feb 21 15:38:41 UTC 2019

Doug - that is an exposure similar to that mimicked in the studies
published by Danovaro et al. (2008 - Environmental Health Perspectives
v116:441-447) and He et al. (2019 - Environmental Pollution v245:462-471).
Danovaro et al included oxybenzone in their experiments while He et al only
included octocrylene and EHMC (ethylhexylmethoxy-cinnamate).  As has been
mentioned before, Danovaro et al reported coral bleaching as a result of
the exposure, but He et al reported coral mortality as a result of the

You're right, the exposure concentrations in those studies and in what you
mentioned are likely much higher (orders of magnitude) that that
experienced by corals on the reef.  But, long-term low-level exposure can
be stressful and result in physiological adaptations that may or may not be

On Thu, Feb 21, 2019 at 10:19 AM Douglas Fenner via Coral-List <
coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:

>     A friend of my has told me a story of some people handling corals to
> asexually propagate new colonies after having used their hands to put the
> usual types of sunscreen (containing oxybenzone) on themselves, and having
> around 50% coral mortality subsequently.  Other people handling corals for
> coral farming who weren't using sunscreens or used mineral-based sunscreens
> had very low mortality among their corals.
>      Not published, not strong proof, but quite suggestive.  Might be worth
> testing out.  Presumably, handling the corals after putting on sunscreen
> with those hands could deliver higher doses to the coral than might be
> delivered by the water alone.  Wouldn't show that tourists with sunscreen
> on them swimming in areas with coral will cause the corals to die (or show
> that they wouldn't die).  But would fit with the evidence that oxybenzone
> can have deleterious effects on corals if the doses are high enough.
> Cheers,  Doug
> --
> Douglas Fenner
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Tim Bargar, Ph.D.
Research Ecotoxicologist
The USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
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Gainesville, Florida 32653
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