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Environment

Sunscreens participate in the destruction of coral reefs

Researchers at the Polytechnic University of the Marche*, in Ancona, Italy, found that sunscreens in seawater cause the rapid and complete bleaching of hard corals, even at extremely low concentrations. The scientists believe this effect is due to organic ultraviolet filters in the sunscreens’ formulae, which would stimulate latent viral infections.

The researchers [1] investigated the effects on coral of adding controlled amounts of three brands of sunscreen and common ultraviolet filters to the surrounding seawater. They conducted in vitro and in situ experiments in several tropical regions: the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, and the Red Sea. Even when sunscreen was added in low quantities, large amounts of coral mucous, composed of algae and coral particles, were released within 18-48 hours. Within 96 hours, complete bleaching of corals had occurred.

Coral reef, by Sam and Ian, Flickr, licence Creative Commons

Coral reef, by Sam and Ian, Flickr, licence Creative Commons

Coral reefs are among the most biologically productive and diverse ecosystems. However, they also appear as being among the most sensitive and are particularly affected by marine pollution and climate change. Sunscreens may act in synergy with other chemical pollutants that have also been pointed out for their negative impact on coral’s health.

According to the Italian researchers, up to 10% of the world coral reefs are potentially threatened by sunscreen-induced coral bleaching. They estimate to 4,000-6,000 tons the amount of sunscreen that tourists dilute in the seawaters in reef areas every year.

Vincent Gallon

Footnotes

[1] Roberto Danovaro, Lucia Bongiorni, Cinzia Corinaldesi, Donato Giovannelli, Elisabetta Damiani, Paola Astolfi, Lucedio Greci, and Antonio Pusceddu, “Sunscreens Cause Coral Bleaching by Promoting Viral Infections », in Environmental Health Perspectives, volume 116, number 4, April 2008

© 2008 - Premium Beauty News - www.premiumbeautynews.com
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