Why Wearing Sunscreen is Harmful to Marine Ecosystem

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Why Wearing Sunscreen is Harmful to Marine Ecosystem

Indonesia’s coral triangle area has around 590 species of coral reefs listed in 80 coral genera[1] with more than half of them can be found in Anambas Islands. Although coral reefs only occupy less than one percent of seabed, around 25% of marine creatures are dependent on them to live. Moreover, healthy coral reefs are valuable natural resources that should be protected and utilised properly.

Plenty of efforts have been done to protect them yet coral reefs are constantly still facing threats from human activities, from unregulated fishing practices to ones that may seem harmless like wearing sunscreen before you go for a swim in the ocean.

Sunscreen is great for protecting your skin from sun damage, however what most people are unaware of is most sunscreen products contain harmful chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate. These chemicals if absorbed by corals will increase their susceptibility to bleaching, DNA damage (genotoxicity), abnormal skeleton growth and gross deformities of baby coral.[2]

Even if you only apply sunscreen just to lay on the beach, it can still find its way to enter the ocean through wastewater after you shower, or if you’re using the aerosol version the spray can land on the sand and it then get washed into the ocean. [3]
Several places like Hawaii and Palau have banned the use of harmful sunscreens and more brands have started introducing reef-friendly sunscreens to the market.

Always remember the next time you’re about to put on a sunscreen to check on the list of ingredients and opt for brands that are natural and have ‘reef-friendly’ or ‘reef-safe’ label on it.


[1] 1Suharsono. (2008). Jenis-Jenis Karang di Indonesia. LIPI Press. Jakarta
[2] https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/sunscreen-corals.html