Petition Closed

BAN the sale of Coral Damaging Sunscreen in the US Virgin Islands

This petition had 435 supporters

Recent studies show that sunscreen ingredients Oxybenzone and Octinoxate cause deformities in coral larvae (planulae), making them unable to swim, settle out, and form new coral colonies.  The chemicals cause DNA damage which inhibits the corals ability to reproduce and increase the risk and rate of coral bleaching, ultimately leading to disintegration of the coral reefs.

Limiting sales of sunscreens with oxybenzone will help prevent further deterioration of the reef. Alternative options much safer for the reef and human are readily available including zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and sunscreens without these ingredients. Rash guards and wetsuits are recyclable and sustainable alternatives that also block harmful UV rays. 

Read the label! Don't buy products that contain oxybenzone, octinoxate and homosalate. 

Most corals obtain most of their energy and nutrients from an algae, zooxanthellae, symbiotically living in their tissues. When stressed from temperature changes, chemical exposure, and other factors, corals expel this algae, lightening or whitening the coral.  The bleached corals are still alive, but their recovery depends on how quickly new coral grows to replace the dead. Exposure to sunscreen at this critical juncture is extremely harmful.   Formerly healthy and vibrant reefs either recover from bleaching, and are recolonized by zooxanthellae, or the weakened reefs experience a regime shift, where instead they are taken over by thick layers of macroalgae. This puts coral reef health at risk and reduces resiliency to climate change. It can ultimately lead to a disintegration of the coral reefs. 

Coral Toxicity begins at concentrations equivalent to one drop in an Olympic size pool, or 62 parts per trillion.  Researchers have found oxybenzone concentrations in some USVI waters to be more than 20-40 times the level considered safe for corals during the off-peak season summer season.

We are asking people who enter the ocean to avoid using sunscreens which contain oxybenzone and octinoxate.  “One of the most important things you can do if you plan to get in or near the ocean is to use a sunscreen that does not contain oxybenzone,” said Dr. Bruce Anderson, administrator of the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources in Hawaii.  “Sunscreen chemicals wash off swimmers, surfers, paddlers, spearfishers, divers, and other ocean users.  Even if you’re just sunbathing on the beach, using beach showers will wash chemicals into the ocean.”  Spray sunscreens land an even higher concentration of these chemicals on the beach and ultimately into the water.

Besides damaging coral, oxybenzone may have negative effects on human health.  Oxybenzone and two other sunscreen chemicals, octinoxate and homosalate, have all been shown to cause disruptive reproductive system effects, due to their hormone-like activity.  Oxybenzone and octinoxate have also been associated with moderate to high rates of skin allergy.

Coral reefs are an important part of the ecosystem and provide a significant amount of money for the tourism industry.  Healthy coral reefs can support more fish life as well as protect the shoreline. The effects of coral bleaching are already widespread.

Mexico, Hawaii, and other Caribbean locations are joining the effort to reduce coral damage by prohibiting such sunscreens.  Warm water temperatures in the USVI have caused the Nature Conservancy to initiate a Coral Watch program this year.  Every small step to preserve the health of the reef could help the coral survive a long hot summer and have the chance to recover. 


Information taken from:

Folke, Carl; Carpenter, Steve; Walker, Brian; Scheffer, Marten; Elmqvist, Thomas; Gunderson, Lance; Holling, C.S. (2004). "Regime Shifts, Resilience, and Biodiversity in Ecosystem Management". Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. 35 (1): 557–81. doi:10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.35.021103.105711. JSTOR 30034127.


Today: protectRreefs is counting on you

protectRreefs needs your help with “BAN the sale of Coral Damagin Sunscreen in the US Virgin Islands”. Join protectRreefs and 434 supporters today.