Coral reefs worldwide are now threatened by various factors from rising sea temperatures and parasites to over fishing and pollution. But according to a recent study, our sunscreen has damaging effect on world’s corals, as well.
Nowadays, only 46 percent of world’s corals are out of harm’s way. The rest are endangered by the above mentioned factors. By the half of the century, researchers estimate that 95 percent of coral reef would be exposed to one or multiple risk factors.
Climate change was often blamed for corals’ poor health and bleaching events worldwide. But the recent research suggests that a simple gesture as applying a thick layer of sunscreen on your skin before visiting corals may have similar devastating effect.
Craig Downs, a scientist involved in the study and researcher at Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Virginia, explained that a common chemical from sunscreen is poisonous to corals.
Oxybenzone not only kills off living corals, but it also damages their DNA structure in unprecedented ways. For instance, it alters adult coral’s genes while it also attacks baby corals and prevent them from properly develop.
Scientists said that they took water samples in various locations in the Virgin Islands, Hawaii and other islands. The highest concentrations of the toxic compound were found on sites that were crowded with tourists.
Downs explained that authorities should limit the use of oxybenzone-based sunscreen in locations where corals are endangered or they try to recover. In the Caribbean currently there are 80 percent fewer corals. Other parts of the globe are equally endangered.
So, conservationist efforts should focus on limiting the agents that killed off corals including pollution from sunscreens. Downs believes that reducing or banning oxybenzone from coral nurseries may boost the odds of the marine animals to survive and recover.
During their research, study authors exposed corals and baby corals to high levels of oxybenzone. Seven different types of corals saw their cells die after exposure to oxybenzone levels reported in the samples taken from sites roamed by tourists.
The study also revealed that the sunscreen compound stunted growth of baby corals and trapped them inside their exoskeleton. This is why corals cannot migrate to new locations where they can establish fresh colonies. Additionally, sunscreen has damaging effect on world’s corals because it also fuels coral bleaching, an event usually caused by sea temperature rise.
Experts recommend the use of reef safe sunscreens to tourists that plan to spend their vacations snorkeling over coral reefs.
Image Source: Pixabay
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