Summer has come and it is the right time to go to the beach for some tan or Instagram picture. Prepare all the things you need to make it lit, and don’t forget to bring your sunblock to prevent getting sunburn.
Yes, sunblock is highly associated with beach and summer, simply because the open field is highly exposed to sunshine. Not only to prevent you from getting sunburn, sunblock and sunscreen can also prevent your skin from ultraviolet radiation.
Well, having such practical uses, we can say that sunblock and sunscreen are very useful for us. However, reports said that those lotions might bring harm to marine animals. In this article, we will talk about how sunblock and sunscreen might bring harm to marine animals, and how to prevent it.
Sunblocks and sunscreens are saviors for us, they can prevent our happy moments at the beach getting interrupted by getting sunburn. We don’t have to worry about the blazing sun up there and we can do anything fun while at the beach.
Simply said that using sunblock is a must for us who want to spend some time at the beach. However, you should know that any kind of sunblock is made of chemical compounds. Not a single product has been produced using only organic ingredients.
Some of those chemicals are oxybenzone, zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide. Those chemicals are added to the products to give maximum protection to our skin from the sun. Indeed not all products include those ingredients, but those chemicals are commonly found in commercial sunblock and sunscreen products.
The problem is, we as human are immune to those chemicals, but not every single living organism is. Some marine organisms see those chemicals as threats, and in the most crowded beaches the concentrations of those chemicals is incredibly high because there are so many people use sunblocks and sunscreens to protect their skin.
Poisoning The Corals
Oxybenzone, commonly found in all types of sunscreen is a good ultraviolet blocker. That’s why many sunscreen products include it in their ingredients. However, the chemical compound seems like cannot protect coral from destruction.
Instead, it might poison the coral at the beaches in several ways. Scientists found that the chemical compound is responsible for many coral bleaching phenomena all around the world. The reason is because this compound has similar effect to gasoline for coral’s DNA.
“It causes weird deformities in soft tissue and also causes the coral larvae to encase itself in its own skeleton, in its own coffin,” said Craig Downs, one of the researchers studying the effect of the chemical compound to coral, to The Guardian.
Surprisingly, it doesn’t need much amount of the chemicals to harm coral. Just a drop of it can affect every single coral in more than six Olympic swimming pools. This is the reason why Hawaii lawmakers are banning the use of products containing the chemicals on the islands.
Downs proved in a study conducted in the Caribbean that coral’s death by oxybenzone is real. He visited two different yet connected places and examine the conditions of the coral there. “In one there’s just nothing there, it’s a desolate wasteland. Two bays over, at a $1,000-a-night resort, where very few people go, there’s lots of coral recruitment, lots of spiny sea urchins,” he said.
Oxybenzone is not the only dangerous chemical compound found in sunscreen and sunblock products which may bring harm to marine organism. The two compounds mentioned above, zinc oxide and titanium oxide may also harm the ocean biome.
But unlike how oxybenzone that harms the coral, titanium oxide and zinc oxide brings hazard to other marine microorganism called microscopic algae or microalgae. The chemical compounds can shorten the lifespan of microalgae.
A study conducted by researchers at Hong Kong University found out that when exposed to the chemicals, the maximum lifespan of microalgae is reduced by between 40% to 70%. Not only that, those nanoparticles may also disrupt the growth of microalgae.
“If there are thousands of people swimming during the summer and high concentrations are released at Hong Kong beaches, it could pose a threat to the population size of coastal microalgae,” said Professor Kenneth Leung Mei-yee, co-author of the study.
“Microalgae forms the bottom of the food chain in the ecosystem, providing a primary food source for other marine organisms. This might cause a cascading effect, meaning other members higher up in the food chain could be affected if they have less to eat,” he explained to South China Morning Post.
So, What To Expect?
Those chemical compounds mentioned above are only three of many other chemicals used to produce sunblocks and sunscreens. The contamination process is pretty simple, anytime a person who applies the product dip into the water, the chemicals start to react with the water.
Both coral and microalgae are important part of marine biome. Corals are home for many species of sea creatures, while microalgae are the bottom of marine food chains. Bleached corals can no longer provide the safety for the sea creatures used to live there. While dead microalgae can no longer provide required nutrients to support the growth of marine animals.
When any of those two is killed or destroyed, it means the life of whole marine population around that area is threatened. Such destruction of nature is not worth our excitement at the beach. That’s why we should avoid it.
Like mentioned before, the prevention steps are so simple to do. Before choosing any sunblock or sunscreen product, read the ingredients. Try to understand which chemicals may harm the nature and which ones are particularly safe.
It’s okay if you find mentioned chemicals or other kinds of chemicals potentially dangerous to the marine ecosystem in the product. However, this rule only applies as long as it will not harm you and you try to avoid dipping into the water after applying it to your skin.
Not every single sunblock and sunscreen product is dangerous for the nature. And if you care enough to find out which ones are safe for the marine ecosystem, you should choose those products instead. Caring is saving.