File this on under damned if you do, damned if you don’t – sunblock contributes to coral reef bleaching.
An Italian university study published in the April issue of Environmental Health Perspectives links sunscreen to coral bleaching. Worse still, sunscreens can accumulate while moving up the food chain (just like mercury). The Italians tested effects of different sunscreen brands, protective factors (SPFs), and concentrations on coral algae. The researchers estimated that about 25 percent of the sunscreen we apply to ourselves washes off within 20 minutes. Based on coral tourism, it is estimated that about 6,000 tons of the “sunscreen runoff” is released annually in reef areas.
This isn’t to say that we now have to choose between ocean health and skin cancer. But this is a very recent discovery, so there aren’t too many sunscreen choices out there that a) are ocean friends AND b) work. I’ve only tried Badger Sunscreen so far, but wasn’t too thrilled with the result. It’s potency tends to wear off after about 30 or 40 minutes, which is no good for a 2+ hour surf session.
Let us know if you’ve found something that works!