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    Sunscreen: How You Can Protect the Oceans and Yourself

    Finally, summer is here, and we are as excited about it as you are. Of course, the season calls for at least a few trips to the beach! Who doesn’t love the beach? The sound of the waves and the warmth of the sun feel like heaven, don’t they?

    Before you start packing your bag with lifesaving sunscreen and all your skin care products, here are a couple of things you need to know.

    Hawaii’s New Law

    Hawaii recently became the first US state to ban sunscreen products containing certain chemicals that are believed to kill coral reefs. The law prohibits sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. Scientists have found that these substances are very harmful to coral reefs when washed off in the ocean. The Hawaii sunscreen bill now awaits the governor’s signature and will go into effect on January 1, 2021.

    It is estimated that 14,000 tons of sunscreen are deposited in oceans annually. The greatest damage is found in popular tourist areas, such as Hawaii and the Caribbean (areas with the largest number of swimmers), but reefs are in trouble worldwide. Sunscreen isn’t the only enemy of healthy reefs – other polluters include ocean warming, agricultural runoff and sewage dumping – but banning sunscreen formulations with these harmful chemicals is one variable we swimmers can control.

    But What If You’re Not Going to Hawaii?

    If saving coral reefs isn’t enough reason, consider your own health. Even if you’re not going to Hawaii, we recommend that you avoid sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. We recommend the Environmental Working Group’s 2018 Guide to Sunscreens for specific brand recommendations and an introduction to the science.

    It turns out that the same chemicals that harm coral reefs also harm us. Oxybenzone is a hormone disruptor, and is found in 70% of the sunscreens studied by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). According to the National Institutes of Health, hormone disruptors are believed to “produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects” including cancers, birth defects, and abnormal development in children. So what sun protection should you use instead?

    What’s the solution?

    According to a Live Science blog, “mineral sunscreens that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to physically block the sun’s rays are still allowed. These sunscreens have fallen out of favor because they often leave a white sheen on the skin, but marine biologists say it’s worth looking a little goofy to save reefs.” EWG has also found that mineral sunscreens, which are not absorbed into the bloodstream, pose far fewer health risks to the user as well. Isn’t it great that what is safer for us is also safer for the oceans?

    Interested in learning more? We highly recommend EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens as well as their list of Best Beach & Sport Sunscreens.

    Dos and Don’ts

    • Pick a sunscreen that contains minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, instead of harmful chemicals.
    • Cover up! Hats, long sleeves and pants, and sunglasses are the best protection.
    • Lastly, avoid sunburn!

    Have a great summer, folks!

    – by Narendra Moryani

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