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There are more than 400,000 acres of living coral reefs surrounding the islands of Hawaii. In addition to the beauty of it all, the Hawaiian reefs support unique life found nowhere else on earth such as the Monk Seal, Bandit Angelfish, and unique types of coral. Did you know that Oxybenzone might be killing the reefs?
Oxybenzone is the active ingredient in many sunscreen products that prevents you from getting sunburn. It is referred to as a chemical sunscreen in that it absorbs the UV rays of the sun. Mineral sunscreens, on the other hand, contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide and they reflect the UV rays of the sun. Though safer, mineral sunscreens are typically not as effective as chemical sunscreens.
Some studies say yes. Oxybenzone is absorbed into your skin. Lab studies (Rodriguez 2006, Krause 2012) have found that Oxybenzone may mimic hormones. Effects include acting like estrogen in the body, altering sperm production in animals, and being associated with endometriosis in women. Lab studies have also found Oxybenzone to cause high rates of skin allergy.
Research studies have shown that Oxybenzone is toxic to the algae that lives in coral. Among other things, algae is what gives coral its color. When algae dies off, the coral becomes bleached and turns white. But more important than the loss of beauty is the loss of life within the coral ecosystem.
Among many concerned with the protection of Hawaii's coral reefs is state senator Will Espero who introduce Senate Bill #1150 that would ban the sale of sunscreen products that contain Oxybenzone within the state of Hawaii. Senate Bill #1150 states that Oxybenzone has detrimental effects on coral reefs causing coral larvae deformity, bleaching, and DNA damage that weaken the coral system's adaptability to climate change. This legislation is expected to be passed by the Hawaii state senate.
What can you do? The harmful effects of Oxybenzone do require further research and study. In the meantime, there are alternatives to Oxybenzone. For one, consider the mineral sunscreens. These products use zinc oxide and titanium oxide and actually reflect away the UV rays of the sun. You need to apply these mineral products liberally and the more product you apply, the more they will give your face a whitish look. If you thinly spread these mineral sunscreen products to minimize the whitish look, then your are also minimizing your protection.
Being exposed to the harmful rays of the sun without protection or with thinly applied sun protection is not a good option. Consider a "Cover Up" clothing strategy. Rather than slopping sunscreen all over arms, legs, head, face, and neck, you can wear sun protective clothing such as shirts, shorts, sleeves, wide-rimmed hats, and headwear. Today's modern sun protective clothing not only keeps the sun off your skin and is cool looking, but it is also cooling to wear. Naturally, sunscreen can be applied to areas of your face, especially your nose, that your clothing does not cover. And be sure to reapply sunscreen at least every two hours when on land and every 90 minutes when you are in the water.