Sunscreen Chemicals Hazard To Ocean And Marine Life

By / Letters to the Editor / Wednesday, 07 January 2015 05:00

Dear Editor,
I am writing to share a concern that is affecting our community.  The chemicals in sunscreen pose a significant hazard to our ocean and the marine life that lives in it.    
A recent study published in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, found that between 4400 and 6600 tons of sunscreen washes off swimmers and snorklers into ocean environments each year.  The ingredients in these human sunscreens, such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, react with sunlight and when they hit the water they create hydrogen peroxide, a compound found in bleach and household cleaning products.  In our aquatic environment, hydrogen peroxide is toxic to plants that are critical to the underwater food chain.  It is estimated that up to 10% of the world’s coral reefs are currently threatened by the “bleaching” effect of the chemicals found in sunscreen.  So, what is the answer?  
It’s not to discontinue sunscreen use.   Dr. Michael Sullivan, a leading dermatologist in the Wilmington area reports, “Skin cancer rates have increased dramatically over the past 20 years.  1 in 5 Americans will get some form of skin cancer in their lives. Sunscreen is one of the best tools we have to minimize the damage of ultraviolet (UV) radiation to our skin.”  
What we can all do is choose a sunscreen that minimizes damage to marine life. Make sure your sunscreen has been tested biodegradable. This ensures that the product will break down in the environment.  
Also look for water resistant sunscreens since they will not wash off  in the water as easily as other sunscreens.  Beware of claims that suncreens are “reef safe.”  This term is pretty meaningless because there is no regulation or standard to be declared “reef safe”. Thank you for your consideration into this issue and for giving extra thought to your sunscreen choice.
Ava Toppin
5th Grade, Carolina Beach Elementary School
Junior Girl Scout, Troop 867, Kure Beach NC


Super User

Super User






Please publish modules in offcanvas position.