What’s the best kind of sunscreen? The kind that doesn’t kill marine life.
About half the coral reefs in the world have been lost during my lifetime. Climate change is part of the problem, but another insidious contributor is sunscreen. 6,000 to 14,000 tons* of sunscreen washes into the oceans every year. Much of it is toxic to coral reefs and fish.
Several companies offer coral-friendly alternatives. The public, however, has been slow to make the switch. To keep up the pressure and call attention to the problem, five popular vacation destinations have banned toxic sunscreen chemicals, including:
3. Key West, Florida
5. Mexico has not officially enacted a ban, but most Mexican resorts ask visitors not to use sunscreens that damage reefs.
More ocean destinations will follow suit soon. You should too. It’s easy.
The first and best option: cover up. Wear a rash guard shirt and surfing leggings.
When you want to swim without long pants or shirt, use a sunscreen that is SPF 50 or less and is not toxic to sea life.
Here are chemicals to avoid:**
- 4-mehtylbenzylidene: banned in the U.S., but not in Canada and parts of Europe
Here are reef-friend sunscreen ingredients:
- Zinc oxide
- Mexoryl SX
These safer chemicals still cause problems in heavy concentrations, but they biodegrade and are much better that the Oxy-Octi-Octo-Buty-Methy’s listed above.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) rates sunscreens and provides a handy guide. I don’t tout products for pay, but for information’s sake, my favorite brand right now is Thinksport. It is not as creamy as the paraben-containing sunscreens, but it absorbs well, works great and is approved by EWG.
Bottom line: help protect coral reefs. Cover up or wear sunscreen that is not toxic to the reefs.
Featured image by James Thornton