The Everyday Act of Killing Coral Reefs


As I sunned myself drowsily by the pool today, I watched oiled-up sunscreen laden Americans waddling around the terrace until they could no longer bear the 90 degree heat, whereupon they would jump into the water to cool off. Being a bit put out by the aspect of swimming in this warm swill soup, I opted to dive into the ocean. There were a few people there too, but much more dispersed. After toweling off, I set upon the newest issue of Outside Magazine. In a tiny column about which sunscreen to buy for which activity, it was noted that up to 6,000 tons of sunscreen per year washes off swimmers, leaving behind not only dubious looking body scum, but a threat to coral reefs worldwide. In 2008 National Geographic published a more in-depth article, fingering the devious ingredients therein: paraben, cinnamate, benzophenone, and a camphor derivative. In my unscientific nutshell, these common ingredients cause an algae virus to emerge, replicate quickly, bleaching and killing off the coral. The article said that “Even low levels of sunscreen, at or below the typical amount used by swimmers, could activate the algae viruses and completely bleach coral in just four days…” I am going to take the advice of the Outside and buy Soleo Organics All-Natural Sunscreen SPF 30, available at their website or on Amazon, which if not a complete solution, is at least a conscious decision. I’m hoping my fellow Americans visiting the Caribbean will do the same.

3 thoughts on “The Everyday Act of Killing Coral Reefs

  1. Hi Kerri! Jillian sent me here since I just blogged about some sunscreen issues too. Boy I had no idea about the coral, but yet it doesn’t surprise me. Are we all just doing a superb job of crapping up the planet? Don’t get me going on plastic water bottles! :)

    I enjoyed your blog – as Jillian said I would! I’ll be back!


  2. Certainly oil spillage is not helping the oceans, however, there’s even more than meets the eye re oil that is dumped, purposefully and legally, into our seas, as you probably know. With that said, simple remedies such as smart sunscreen use can remedy at least some of the shoreside bleaching of the coral…all those tourists and all their sunscreen, adds up.


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