Monday, 29 July 2019

SUMMER SCIENCE SNIPPETS 2 - SUNSCREEN and the OCEANS

As I am writing this it is pouring with rain and has been for 48 hours - some of the country has had a heatwave and in some places people are asking what heatwave???



On the supposed hottest day I was engulfed in a torrential hailstorm!

hailstones on July 25th

However whatever the summer weather most of us are totally converted to wearing sun protection and if you read the last posting you will have got a good understanding of why.
Now, of course, there are so many things the conscientious person has to think about including the latest - sunscreen and the ocean. There are findings that seem to suggest that certain chemicals in sunscreen can cause coral bleaching and in the light of this research some places are banning many sunscreens.

Some sunscreens contain inorganic pigments and minerals like titanium oxide and many contain organic compounds such as oxybenzone and octinoxate that absorb UV radiation. It is the latter that are causing concern. 
Apparently sunscreen formulation has not really changed over the last 25 years and many ecologists are demanding that the industry gets up to date and creates new products. 


Last year, the Pacific nation of Palau announced that, from 2020, it will ban sunscreens containing certain chemicals linked with coral degradation. Tourists will have offending suncreams confiscated and anyone importing them will face a $1,000 fine. 

 Jellyfish Lake is one of Palau’s key tourist attractions. Photograph: Ullstein Bild/Getty Images

Hawaii’s ban on sunscreens that contain oxybenzone or octinoxate – the two most controversial chemical compounds – comes into force in 2021, and tourists swimming at certain beauty spots in Mexico are already forbidden from wearing not just chemically active but non-biodegradable sunscreens - so the local advice is to buy there because this ban is strictly enforced.

In Hawaii a report found that oxybenzone and octinoxate can cause coral bleaching and high levels had been found at popular tourist swimming resorts.


It is a minefield because we know our ocean ecosystems are in trouble from climate change and pollution so the last thing we want to be doing is contributing to that with our sun protection. 
The brilliant folk at Compound Interest have produced a poster explaining the issues.
you can find one of the research articles here

I have done a little research too and it is quite hard to make sure we are doing the right thing! Plus as ever there are companies jumping on the bandwagon with amazing claims and high prices.
Big name companies have claimed their products do not affect the ecosystem and are safe because of the extensive testing needed for personal products but consumers are taking matters into their own hands a turning away from the big brands to smaller names such as Banana Boat and other "ocean friendly" sunscreens.
ocean friendly sunscreen

Australia is getting very involved in the issue


I read a very level headed article from the Guardian which ended with the advice - if you are holidaying in the banned areas buy your sunscreen there because they are not allowed to sell anything on the banned list. If you plan a trip to a delicate ecosystem  then try to buy ocean friendly sunscreen. If you are staying in the UK you'll be fine - at the moment!!
One great fact I did find is that the old faithful Boots Soltan is ocean & coral friendly and has always been - they don't use any of the culprit ingredients.

And to make matters worse it could be that the mineral oils  and some nanoparticles in sunscreens can cause problems too
Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water...........


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