Sunscreen with Chemical UV Filters: Killing Coral and Disrupting Hormones in Humans? And Alternatives

What are most sunscreens doing to coral and their hormone disrupting potential in humans and other species

What are most sunscreens doing to coral and their hormone disrupting potential in humans and other species

Last night I watched a French documentary about sunscreen and my eyes were opened to the impact we are having on the planet-one I was not previously aware of. Not living near the sea, I rarely visit beaches. But imagine the world’s most popular beaches where millions of visitors come slathered in sunscreen, reapplying ever few hours. Sure, the stuff gets washed off, but what happens to it once it goes into the water? Does it get diluted to a non-toxic level? Unfortunately, an Italian study published in EHP concluded that sunscreens, by promoting viral infection, potentially play an important role in coral bleaching in areas prone to high levels of recreational use by humans. The effect of sunscreens is due to organic ultraviolet filters.

A Swiss scientist, Dr. Karl Fent concluded that the hormones of fish were affected by suncreens. Again, the culprit was the organic UV filter, 3BC (3-benzylidene camphor).

I kept looking for other studies. These chemical UV filters mimic estrogen and may cause hypothyroidism in humans. Pregnant women need to be especially concerned.

My mind returns to the scene that I watched on the documentary. Millions of visitors, each armed with a bottle or tube of sunscreen. All being washed into the sea and accumulating.

It’s clear that these UV filters are effective against sun damage to the skin but are there safer alternatives that don’t kill coral and disrupt hormones in aquatic life? In the report, they showed a resort in Mexico which prohibits the use of sunscreens with UV filters. Visitors swim with dolphins and enjoy the natural setting. Workers check bags and signs are posted showing “No Sunscreen”. When told, most visitors thought it was a great idea and handed over their bottles and tubes in favor of the sunscreen provided by the resort, one which didn’t contain the chemical UV filters.

Chemical UV filters work by absorbing UV rays from the sun. Another option is a sunscreen that blocks or creates a physical barrier thereby protecting the skin. So called mineral sunscreens. The safest mineral option as recommended by the Environmental Working Group report on the best sunscreens is a formula made with zinc oxide.

A Couple of Chemical UV filters to avoid due to hormone disruption:
4-methyl benzylidene camphor (4-MBC)
octocrylene (OC)

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About Lynn

Blogger, talkcaster and teacher.
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