Sunscreen on the beach? A recent study has proved that they are the cause of the destruction of the barrier reef and the Hawaiian and Caribbean government are going to ban it. 

The first thing to do at the beach? To rub the sunscreen. Before diving into the water to get fresh the dermatologists recommend to put the sunscreen to protect out skin from the UV rays of the sun. But unfortunately, by protecting our skin from sunburn, if we use a sun protection made with chemical filters we will espose the corals and barrier reef to a terrible danger. Here’s why. 

During the last period we talked a lot about the problem that is working the barrier reefs of the Hawaii and of the island of the Caribbean: the phenomenon of the bleaching, that caused the death of a huge number of corals that were populating this undersea wonders and that is now catching the attention. But what is the reason? 

First of all let us understand the characteristics of a barrier reef. It is a natural formation composed by rocks and corals, present in our tropical seas and oceans, that hosts several aquatic species and has a unique role in our ecosystem. They are not only a natural wonder to admire for who had the chance to admire it and swim with colorful fishes. But they represent a real and patrimony that is fundamental for the biodiversity of the oceans, the fish and are a natural defense for the costs because the protect from storm and violent inondations. 

In the last years, this incredible ecosystems are more and more exposed to a danger and they are slowly disappearing from our oceans. 

Disappearance of the coral reef. Which are the reasons? 

Photo by Salvador Martin Yeste on Unsplash

At the first place we have the climate change that with the heating of the water and acidification of the seas and oceans dissolve the skeleton of calcium carbonate of the corals. But on a local scale other agents can damage the coral reefs. We have already explained in the article 10 rules to be green even at the beach but now we would like to make a deeper analysis. 

By rubbing the sunscreen to protect us from the sunbeams and sunburns, as recommended by the dermatologists and later swimming in the cristal clear water near the coral reef, we are exposing the ecosystem to a terrible danger. 

Why? Some chemical substances of the sunscreen lotions used to protect us from the sunbeams, as for example the oxybenzone, are damaging the DNA of the corals by stopping their normal growth. 

The chemical filters can facilitate the growth of virus, causing pathological conditions and the bleaching phenomenon. This phenomenon happens because the coral loose their microscopic seaweed with whom they live in a symbiotic status for the nutrition. 

But it is not finished yet. Some researches done in Italy, Spain, Israel and Iran have confirmed the damages of the corals caused by the oxybenxone in even small doses of concentration. The scientists have also argued that we are facing the third bleaching phenomenon on a global scale, after the one of 1998 and 2010. 

Hawaii and Caraibi: sunscreen lotions are now banned

beach, sea and coral reef, Haway
Photo by Coral Ouellette on Unsplash

To preserve the paradisiacal beauties of their island and their seas, the Hawaiian government has decided that starting from 2012 it will be not possible to bring the sunscreen lotion to the Hawaii. The sunscreen will be forbidden. The shops could not sell it and there will be some control also in the beaches. 


But the Caribbean islands are following the same path. They have in fact deiced to ban the sunscreen affecting the environment. The first will be the island Bonaire, famous for the wonderful divings. The chance is that all the terrestrial paradises will follow this examples. 

The solution to protect the barrier reef but also our health?  

The solution to protect the barrier reef but also our health?
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

It is necessary to put a protection against the UV sunbeams when spending a lot fo hours at the seaside. The coral’s damages can be avoided by choosing lotions with titanium or kaolin as filters. 

Currently some scientists are trying to find natural filter for the sunscreen that may be contained inside the mucus of seaweed or corals. 

Before the next trip to the sea or to the tropics, it is better think to which kind of sunscreen lotion we purchase: our choice could change the future of the barrier reef. 

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