Consumers should choose products carefully
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — All that sunscreen you slather on at the beach may help you prevent sunburn, but it’s not, as long suspected, the best for coral reefs. Turns out that a chemical used in many sunscreens, along with soap, cosmetics and body fragrances, is highly toxic to corals.
Research by scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science shows that even very low concentrations of benzophenone-2, or BP-2, can quickly kill juvenile corals. The additive has been used in personal-care products since the 1960s to protect against the damaging effects of ultraviolet light.
The team also found that BP-2 causes colorful corals to bleach, and can potentially induce or increase the frequency of mutation in corals by causing damage to their DNA. BP-2 is not removed from most municipal wastewater treatment facilities. This discharge is often directly released in coastal waters of the Caribbean and the Indo-Pacific, threatening near-shore coral reefs.
Pollution is a major cause of coral reef degradation and is the easiest factor to mitigate. But BP-2 as a pollutant has largely been ignored, according to C.A. Downs, lead author of the study.
“In the case of BP-2 pollution, there are a range of options that can be considered for reducing its impact to reefs, from working with manufacturers and innovating more environmentally sustainable products to educating consumers regarding product selection and product disposal,” he said.
The study was published in the December 2013 issue of Ecotoxicology.