Coral reefs are a vital component of our economy. They are the most biologically productive and diverse ecosystem in the world, habituating millions of unusual animals and plant species that require their coral homes for survival. Although protecting our skin from the sun is undeniably essential, there are unintentional consequences. While shielding our skin from potential cancer-inducing UV rays, we are simultaneously harming the coral systems.
Coral reefs contain Zooxanthellae, symbiotic algae that provide the coral with nutrients via photosynthesis. Algae is also responsible for making the vibrant colors which corals are known for. Sunscreens contain chemicals that never biodegrade causing a release of viral particles that strip the reefs of the algae, ultimately causing coral bleaching.
Natural Mineral Sunscreens containing Zinc Oxide do not contain chemicals known to contribute to Coral Bleaching, such as Cinnamate, Benzophenone, and a Camphor derivative and Butylparaben a common preservative, that have been found to have negative effect.
It is estimated that 4000 to 6000 metric tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers annually in oceans worldwide, and that up to 10% of corl reefs are threatened by sunscreen induced bleaching.