by Gary Carlson
It’s all in the news and social media; active ingredients in most sunscreens are death to coral. In an effort to limit damage to the state’s coral reefs, very recently the state of Hawaii passed legislation that prohibits the sale, and distribution of any sunscreen that contains the two chemicals -- oxybenzone and octinoxate -- without a prescription from a licensed physician. This law is due to go in effect in 2021, possibly because there are warehouses full of the stuff to dispose of.
There are six active chemical ingredients found in sunscreen sold in the US, and each carry a plethora of scientific and brand names, but commonly labeled; oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. It seems most of these chemicals are included in the family of BENZOPHENONE & RELATED COMPOUNDS, Which are used as color fixers in paints and dyes, as well as in cosmetics like lip balm, nail polish, foundations, baby sunscreens, fragrance, shampoo, conditioner, hair spray, moisturizers, and foundation.
Damaging effects of these chemicals on coral, and coral reefs have been observed where the concentration of oxybenzone (benzsophenone-3 etc.) was as low as 62 parts per trillion, which is equivalent to a drop of water in six and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools). Studies of reefs in Hawaii and the Caribbean have showed levels 12 times higher than that.
The chemicals not only kill the coral, they cause DNA damage in adult coral polyps, and deform the coral DNA in the larval stage, making it unlikely they can develop properly.
HOWEVER, let’s think about this a minute, one drop of sunscreen’s active ingredients in a half a city block of water six feet deep (a bit over 4 million gallons), kills, deform, and alters the DNA of coral animals. That’s correct; they are animals, evolving and living on the same planet as us. So, we slap a shot glass full of that stuff over every exposed surface of our body’s largest organ, and make sure to get it on “Junior” good and thick, because his skin is so delicate.
It has been found that sunscreen’s active ingredients can penetrate the skin's porus barrier in humans. Yes, you put it on the outside, and it goes inside, somewhere.
Since the early 1980s, the prevalence of obesity has more than doubled worldwide, to 600 million obese adults. It has been surmised that this can no longer be solely explained by “genes”, over-eating, and lack of physical activity. Science is looking into environmental exposures of industrial ingredients as possible causes.
A study published in late 2017 by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health of tests involving 24 postmortem individuals, 12 normal weight, and 12 obese, that the chemical oxybenzone, and its family of related environmental phenols and parabens were found in the hypothalamus region of the brain, with higher levels associated with the heavier test subjects.
The hormones from the hypothalamus are used in such functions such as temperature regulation, thirst, hunger, sleep, mood, sex drive, and the release of other hormones within the body. A disruption of these hormones has been linked to adult obesity, and developmental problems in infants.
The above study published that: “Out of the nine phenols and seven parabens analyzed, three phenols (BPA, TCS, and TCC) and four parabens (MeP, EtP, n-PrP, and BzP) were detected in the hypothalamus”. And in their conclusion: “This study shows—for the first time—the distribution of three environmental phenols and four parabens, assumed to be non-persistent, in the human hypothalamus, indicating their ability to infiltrate, and their potential to accumulate in the brain region responsible for the regulation of metabolism.”
But there is a Beach! And White Sand! And Sun! And Warm Water! And only a week to play! And, oh yes, there is your alabaster skin. For goodness sake, don’t put that crap on you, or yours, there are alternate solutions.
Many sunscreens have been developed without using the coral killing (and possibly fattening) chemical oxybenzone. Using natural mineral barriers containing oxides of titanium and zinc these sunscreens are effective in blocking the UVA as well as the UVB rays, which are only blocked by oxybenzone.
The locally produced Aegis Sunscreen is a great example of coral friendly sunscreen. When travelling, try using locally sourced, environmentally friendly products such as Aegis sunscreen. They are manufactured with the local environment in mind, and often help with struggling economies.
While on your tropical vacation, pause to notice the local people. We, who are fortunate enough to live in a paradise of brilliant sun, white beaches, and crystalline waters. We are in the shade, wearing hats, and even rashies (water T-shirts) while snorkeling. You will not find us stretched out on the beach, soaking in the radiation of the nuclear fusion furnace overhead, for the temporary vanity of a scorched skin!