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Skincare Chemical Threatens Coral Reefs

Common chemical is used in thousands of products to protect against harmful effects of ultraviolet light.

people at beach

Scientists have discovered that a common chemical used to protect against the damaging effects of ultraviolet light is highly toxic to juvenile corals and other marine life.

A study from a team of international scientists has found that a common chemical in many sunscreen lotions and cosmetics is highly toxic to juvenile corals and other marine life. Oxybenzone, or BP-3, is found in more than 3,500 skin care products worldwide for protection against the sun's harmful effects. The compound has been found entering the environment both through wastewater effluent and directly from swimmers wearing sunscreens.

The study, published in the journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, showed four major toxic effects in early, developing coral: increased susceptibility to bleaching; DNA damage; abnormal skeleton growth (via endocrine disruption); and gross deformities of baby coral.

The authors of the study conclude that nontoxic oxybenzone alternatives are critical for protecting reefs and the exacerbating effects posed by climate change and bleaching.