Soak Up The Sun And Save The Reefs

By Sydney O’Brien

During the summer, people spend more time outside, and with that comes more time in the sun. It is important for us to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays, yet many people do not realize that they are accidentally polluting the very beaches that they are enjoying.  However, sunscreen is not the sole culprit to hurting the ecosystem. Makeup, lip balm, shampoo, nail polish, and other beauty products contain chemicals such as oxybenzone, which protects against UV light. The benefits are not worth the risks. Whether they are washed off in the shower or discarded as trash, these personal care products enter the environment. The chemicals are detrimental to reefs and aquatic life. Pub Chem, an online database of chemicals describes oxybenzone as being “Toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects”, and it is considered to be an endocrine disruptor, a substance that mimics hormones. Chemicals that are endocrine disruptors could cause serious health issues such as infertility.  

Although Hawaii has recently banned the sale of sunscreens containing chemicals harmful to their coral reefs, other states have yet to follow and this law does not apply to all products which contain oxybenzone. These chemicals are not only harmful to aquatic life but are harmful to human life. Many products that people use daily, contain carcinogens that could be easily avoided by switching to natural alternatives. Even sitting in the shade is a natural alternative when available! Removing chemicals from daily routines can be an easy switch, as can recycling the plastic containers that the products come in, thus keeping the waste from entering the waterways.

Keeping the environment clean is not only important to the diverse population of species that it contains, but it also keeps people healthy to live a long life. Many beauty products contain chemicals that could cause cancer, developmental disorders, and pollution to the marine ecosystem. With many species in danger of disappearing forever, now is the time to act and protect these natural wonders that line our oceans. Perhaps through education and proper laws, beauty products could transform from harmful to helpful, so that many more generations will enjoy the world’s reefs.

Richard Hyman