Oops! It may not be 'ocean acidification' killing coral after all – common chemical found in sunscreen is poisonous to coral reefs

From the AMERICAN FRIENDS OF TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY and the “settled science” department:

Sunscreen is proven toxic to coral reefs

Tel Aviv University researchers discover chemical found in most sunscreen lotions poses an existential threat to young corals


The daily use of sunscreen bearing an SPF of 15 or higher is widely acknowledged as essential to skin cancer prevention, not to mention skin damage associated with aging. Though this sunscreen may be very good for us, it may be very bad for the environment, a new Tel Aviv University study finds.

New research published in Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology finds that a common chemical in sunscreen lotions and other cosmetic products poses an existential threat — even in miniscule concentrations — to the planet’s corals and coral reefs. “The chemical, oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), is found in more than 3,500 sunscreen products worldwide. It pollutes coral reefs via swimmers who wear sunscreen or wastewater discharges from municipal sewage outfalls and coastal septic systems,” said Dr. Omri Bronstein of TAU’s Department of Zoology, one of the principal researchers.

The study was conducted by a team of marine scientists from TAU, including Prof. Yossi Loya, also of the Department of Zoology, the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Virginia, the National Aquarium (US), the US. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and other labs in the US.

A deadly day at the beach

A person spending the day at the beach might use between two to four ounces of sunblock if reapplied every two hours after swimming, towelling off, or sweating a significant amount. Multiply this by the number of swimmers in the water, and a serious risk to the environment emerges.

“Oxybenzone pollution predominantly occurs in swimming areas, but it also occurs on reefs 5-20 miles from the coastline as a result of submarine freshwater seeps that can be contaminated with sewage,” said Dr. Bronstein, who conducted exposure experiments on coral embryos at the Inter University Institute in Eilat together with Dr. Craig Downs of the Heretics Environmental Laboratories. “The chemical is highly toxic to juvenile corals. We found four major forms of toxicity associated with exposure of baby corals to this chemical.”

Forms of toxicity include coral bleaching, a phenomenon associated with high sea-surface temperature events like El Niño — and with global mass mortalities of coral reefs. The researchers found oxybenzone made the corals more susceptible to this bleaching at lower temperatures, rendering them less resilient to climate change. They also found that oxybenzone damaged the DNA of the corals, neutering their ability to reproduce and setting off a widespread decline in coral populations.

The study also pointed to oxybenzone as an “endocrine disruptor,” causing young coral to encase itself in its own skeleton, causing death. Lastly, the researchers saw evidence of gross deformities caused by oxybenzone — i.e., coral mouths that expand to five times their healthy, normal size.

It only takes a drop

“We found the lowest concentration to see a toxicity effect was 62 parts per trillion — equivalent to a drop of water in six and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools,” said Dr. Bronstein. The researchers found concentrations of oxybenzone in the US Virgin Islands to be 23 times higher than the minimum considered toxic to corals.

“Current concentrations of oxybenzone in these coral reef areas pose a significant ecological threat,” said Dr. Bronstein. “Although the use of sunscreen is recognized as important for protection from the harmful effects of sunlight, there are alternatives — including other chemical sunscreens, as well as wearing sun clothing on the beach and in the water.”

The researchers hope their study will draw awareness of the dangers posed by sunscreen to the marine environment and promote the alternative use of sun-protective swimwear.


From the University of Florida, who also produced a press release:

The researchers found that oxybenzone, a common UV-filtering compound, is in high concentrations in the waters around the more popular coral reefs in Hawaii, and the Caribbean. The chemical not only kills the coral, it causes DNA damage in adults and deforms the DNA in coral in the larval stage, making it unlikely they can develop properly. The highest concentrations of oxybenzone were found in reefs most popular with tourists.

In laboratory experiments, the team exposed coral larvae and cells of adult corals to increasing concentrations of oxybenzone. The research team discovered that oxybenzone deforms coral larvae by trapping them in their own skeleton, making then unable to float with currents and disperse.

Oxybenzone also caused coral bleaching, which is a prime cause of coral mortality worldwide. Corals bleach when they lose or expel the algae that normally live inside them, thus losing a valuable source of nutrition. In addition, coral larvae exposed to increasing oxybenzone concentrations suffered more DNA damage.

Cells from seven species of corals were killed by oxybenzone at concentrations similar to those detected in ocean water samples. Three of the species that the researchers tested are currently listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act.

The team concluded in the published paper that “Oxybenzone poses a hazard to coral reef conservation, and threatens the resiliency of coral reefs to climate change.”

They just had to throw in “climate change”, didn’t they?

Note: Within 10  minutes of publication, the University of Florida portion was added along with a link to the Journal.

180 thoughts on “Oops! It may not be 'ocean acidification' killing coral after all – common chemical found in sunscreen is poisonous to coral reefs

  1. Well this would explain why these bleaching events seem to follow these researchers around the world…
    I recall it being suggested maybe it was a pathogen in the past.

    • So Jack Cousteau and his pals are killing reefs while they antagonize he sharks to get movies for fleecing Americans for their Tropical vacation capers.
      And he was the one who said sports fishermen were the lowest form of life, crawling on their bellies like snakes. That was before all those catch and release fishermen cut off their funding to Coustea.
      Well we wear Buffs, when out fishing in the sun, so we don’t need sunscreen.

      • I can’t comment on the truth or otherwise of this study but the sunscreen theory was being touted five or six years ago and I am sure was the subject of an article here at that time

      • Yes, I seem to recall that too TonyB. It’s all business as usual alarm in the build up to COP21 in Paris.

      • Mod its an idea that human made ideas are todays greatest tool to dominate the world. The question is who is really behind todays in the Western World ideas and what are their motives?

      • Okay I understand. USA has now been so politizised With Political Correcness that more and more Words can no longer been spoken or written?
        [Reply: what don’t you understand about ‘off topic’? ~mod.]

    • I grew up in South Florida in the 1960s. Never did me or my 5 siblings use sunscreen. Never. the sun causing skin cancer is a statistical fact, I’m sure. But sunshine doesn’t “give you” skin cancer. It just increases the probability. I’ve never met a skin cancer (melanoma) victim. By far, one doesn’t get it.

      • I have read for many years that most sunscreens are more likely to give you skin cancer than the Sunlight you’re screening. I also believe that if you go out and get your suntan by building your exposure and avoiding sunburns. the vitamin D you are creating in your skin will do you far more good. Like every other form of cancer, it sees that statistically, we are getting more of them, but as far as skin cancer is concerned, I think it is more likely the skin exposed to sunscreen is far more prone to get cancer than the that exposed to the sun, basically because sunlight IS natural, the crap in sunscreen are chemicals that were never intended to be part of human consumption.

      • Right RobRoy, I’ve known several old time refinery workers who used benzine to clean tools and skin and got a lot nastier cancers than melanomas. I don’t want Benzo-anything on my skin. A straw hat works great here.
        Is benzophenone-3 a benzine compound?

      • Geez mate, I live in Queensland (worst Melanoma rates in the World). I’ve met a few, dead and alive. It ain’t pretty.

      • I grew up in Central Queensland and there were no real sun-screens. I have Celtic genes and have had numerous and different types of skin cancers removed. I am guilty of using UV sun-screens since they were invented. I hate the beach and never sun-baked and don’t live near the sea. It takes, I believe, about 15 years of exposure to develop skin cancers so mine were all formed when I was young (I’m not now) and have never had a melanoma – that is in the genes and skin of suffers.
        A dermatologist warns that ignoring a skin cancer is dangerous – as he said ‘They can take your head off, if left long enough.’ So perhaps now is the time for the scientists to create a new type of sun screen if people cannot or will not wear protective clothing.

      • By far the most common skin cancer, especially in people with pale skin, is basal cell carcinoma. It comes in many variations and usually doesn’t spread and kill you. It can if it’s left untreated and causes all sorts of weird looking ulcers. Mostly it occurs on sun exposed skin, but about 1/3 apparently is genetic and occurs almost anywhere on the body. I’ve got a friend that gets 2-3 lesions removed every year, despite wearing sunscreen.

      • On the Mayo Clinic site;
        “Just what damages DNA in skin cells and how this leads to melanoma isn’t clear. It’s likely that a combination of factors, including environmental and genetic factors, causes melanoma. ”
        If they don’t know, I certainly don’t.

      • I met my first one today…and hers was on her head in hair and she had always been a hat wearer
        as fairskinned aussie with all my ancestors out on farms- picking fruit etc outside workers
        not one of us has had more than minor burnable dry ice removed skin spots
        the sunscreens block the rays that help us make the Vit D melatonin
        I flatly refused to wear em younger and sure wont nowdays
        if you must..the old tacky white zinc cream is safest for you.
        its ugh but…skin absorbable nano new stuff….avoid.

      • In the United States about 9,000 people die from melanoma a year.[87] In 2011 it affected 19.7 per 100,000, and resulted in death in 2.7 per 100,000.


    • Stop using industrial strength perfumed degreasant aka shower gel which removes all the vitamin D-3 and oils secreted onto your skin to protect it from the sun. When you are ‘squeaky clean’ you have just removed all that natural protection. Wash with water and then only if you need to. Multiple degreasings daily is not good for the skin. Just a guess but I would not be surprised if the claimed rise in skin cancer did not correlate with the increasing use of shower gels and multiple daily showers.

    • The actual EVIDENCE shows that sunscreen may CAUSE cancer–in part, because it interferes with the natural absorption of Vitamin D, essential for primary prevention of melanoma. It’s also a disease-mongering lie that melanoma are caused by sun exposure to begin with; many if not most are found literally where the sun don’t shine–soles of the feet and internally such as the ovaries being two good examples. There is also vast overdiagnosis and overtreatment going on of things that years ago weren’t even classified as “cancer.”

  2. We found the lowest concentration to see a toxicity effect was 62 parts per trillion

    That’s low.
    What’s the mechanism by which it harms coral? Because there isn’t a lot there to be active.

    • Maybe they should check the numbers and make sure they didn’t introduce some other untested for contaminate. Wouldn’t be the first time that “alarming results” are the result of poor experiment design or unexpected interference.

      • Thank you, Aphan.
        But it must have required some exceptional experimental technique to detect the effect at that level.
        It’s incredible work

      • “In laboratory experiments, the team exposed coral larvae and cells of adult corals to increasing concentrations of oxybenzone. The research team discovered that oxybenzone deforms coral larvae by trapping them in their own skeleton, making then unable to float with currents and disperse.
        Oxybenzone also caused coral bleaching, which is a prime cause of coral mortality worldwide. Corals bleach when they lose or expel the algae that normally live inside them, thus losing a valuable source of nutrition. In addition, coral larvae exposed to increasing oxybenzone concentrations suffered more DNA damage.
        Cells from seven species of corals were killed by oxybenzone at concentrations similar to those detected in ocean water samples.”
        How hard is it, if you start with a normal, healthy environment, and normal healthy coral, and the only thing you change in that environment is adding incrementally increasing amounts of Oxybenzone over time until you can see a “toxicity effect” ? I can see anticipating some exceptional technique if trying to control such an experiment in the wild, but these were lab results in which the levels of everything are controlled.
        I’m not saying the study is accurate or correct or even truth related. I’m just pointing out logical conclusions from the article alone.

      • The only thing that changes in the lab is their variable?
        With living creatures (coral at least) in the setup. Invariant creatures?
        I’m not saying the conclusion is definitely wrong but I am saying it’s far too confident about it’s sensitivity.

      • Good point.
        I am waiting for reproducibility studies.
        Pal review means nothing.
        No one can read something like this and say if it is true or not.

    • fossilsage
      October 20, 2015 at 8:52 am
      “Maybe they should check the numbers and make sure they didn’t introduce some other untested for contaminate.”
      I agree with fossilage.
      Contaminants loom large at that scale. By the way a better measure of 62 ppt is that it equals 9.3 metres along a trip from the earth to the sun. Probably latex gloves even dissolve that much in water. I would sure like to see a thorough description of the experiment on living coral that avoids such contaminant levels.

    • I’d believe a result at ppb levels, and close encounters with snorkling tourists or masses on beaches could probably get corals to the ppm in concentration. However ppt? That staggers belief.

      • Yeah, I’m not ready to accept their contention that tens of parts per trillion have such an extreme impact. Further study required, indeed. ;->

      • It works that way because oxybenzone is homeopathic. The more you dilute it, the stronger it gets (tongue firmly in cheek….)

  3. But oxybenzone’s chemical formula is C14H12O3, see right there EVIL CARBON. It is still being caused by anthropogenic CARBON. And there is even oxygen involved, so CO2 is sort of kind of almost involved.

    • Sugar: C12H22O11; glucose C6H12O6, and thousands of other organic chemical species of carbohydrates are variants not far from oxybenzone. Maybe it converts to something else in the laboratory or some other carbohydrate converts to it? Oxidation of sugars creates ketoses and aldoses and they can be further oxidized to carboxylic acids. Reduction of sugars creates another family of organic chemicals. Hey, we are talking 62 ppt! (equal to 9metres on the distance to the sun)

  4. Again we see serious logical errors. If in fact the corals are being killed, where is this occurring? And most important, if it is chemicals from sunscreen killing the corals, why does it not happen gradually? Sunscreen chemicals only works AFTER storms?

  5. “We found the lowest concentration to see a toxicity effect was 62 parts per trillion”
    If the concentration of every conceivable compound was measured down to the level of 1 ppt, the number of alleged reef-killing agents would number in the millions, if not billions.

    • This on the level of 10 parts per trillion ok 60 parts but my physics teacher only cared that we got the order of magnitude correct when we were dealing with very large or small numbers.

    • OK, how much is this in terms of grains of salt in Olympic swimming pool?
      Those are terms everyone can picture readily.

      • Lol, good call. .000015676328 grams of salt added, so about 1 and a half grains of salt…? If my math is correct and it probably isn’t.

      • An olympic swimming pool has about 2million liters of water. 2 kg is therfore 1ppm. 2g is 1ppb. 2mg is 1ppt. 60ppt is approximately 100mg (0.1g). A grain of salt weighs 0.1mg, so we need 1000 grains of salt in an olympic swiming pool.

  6. To back up just a bit on the issue of sunscreen and skin cancer.
    Humans evolved with the sun for millions and millions of years on this planet. Then one day back in the late 20th century, some guy in a white lab coat tells us that he has just discovered that the sun causes skin cancer, but that’s okay because we can now buy his new formula super-duper sun protection chemical concoction to slather directly onto our skins for a low low introductory price.
    Also, if you look at the stats, Oregon State and Maine both report more skin cancer than California and Florida. The causes of skin cancer may be multi-variate. And the sun may not one of the major variables. Just my opinion.

    • Hi Terry,
      Could it be that the “snowbids” from Maine, etc spend a longer time out sunbathing, than locals who tend to cover up more. Just a thought.

      • I would think that Floridians and Californians in general spend much more cumulative time outdoors year round wearing shorts and t-shirts, bathing suits, etc. while Maine-ites and Oregonians only get a short window in the summer to do that, and tend to wear sweaters, jackets and coats for a good portion of the year. The stats I looked at were State numbers of skin cancers cases per capita. And I was quite surprised. Not what I expected.

      • I think it’s the fact that Maine and Oregon tend to be “chilly” coastal areas with lower temps and a LOT of coastal winds. When we vacation in Oregon, we often “forgot” to use sunscreen because we couldn’t exactly sunbath on the beach very often. We spent a lot of time in jackets, wrapped in blankets, or sitting under a shelter of some kind to get away from the blowing sand.
        If the locals think and act the same way, they probably don’t think about the amount of sun they are actually getting outdoors because it’s rare to see locals sunbathing.

    • People from the Northern states are more likely to not have a tan when they encounter the summer sun. People in southern states are more likely to be well tanned all year round. It’s the bad sunburns, during which the skin replaces the epidermis in only a few days, a process that normally takes 5–6 weeks, by pulling out all of the growth controls. If a precancerous cell arises, the body’s defenses are not online to stop it from reaching a colony size that cannot be stopped. Bad burns during childhood increase the number of cells situated to go rogue in the skin.

      • I can vouch for that. As a child, for a period of about seven or eight years, we’d travel each summer from foggy, rainy N. Cal. (near Oregon) to the Colorado foothills. Each summer I’d burn twice, then have enough tan to last the rest of the summer.

      • I spent summers at the beach back in the days where hardly any kid worse a shirt. Get a bit burned (“piece by piece”), then recovery to tan, which was then reinforced. Necessary for survival, anyway.

    • Of course they are multi-variate. One big thing is that we are living longer. Cancer is (normally and with tragic exceptions) a disease of the old. Who cares if you have minor skin cancers if you are dead of plague at 40?
      Excessive sun exposure is only one cause out of many, and it’s only significant with repeated exposure to the point of burning. However, the fact that a link exists between excessive sun exposure and skin cancer not a reasonable thing to doubt at this point in time.

    • About the sun, cancer, and sunscreen: When I was a relative youngling, in my 40s and 50s, I wore shorts and short-sleeved (if any) shirts while working outside, as I had done since I was a kid. I learned about skin cancer and other dangers, and I changed to long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and added a broad-brimmed hat. The first thing I found after making the change was that I got far fewer insect bites! In May in Virginia, we get occasional infestations of nasty biting flies whose bites go deep beneath the skin. One of these got me on an exposed spot of my lower leg and gave me cellulitis. My leg started out with a red spot that graduated quickly to a purple area well over a foot long and most of the way around my leg. It didn’t hurt, but it was a bit warm, and I didn’t like the look of it, so I went to my doctor. She and I talked briefly about various matters until she said, “And what brings you here today?” I said, “It is this,” and I pulled up my pants-leg so she could see my purple leg. She gasped! Then she said, “What’s your favorite hospital?” “Don’t have one,” I replied. She ended up giving me two huge injections, one in each butt cheek, and sending me home to lie flat on my back, with my afflicted leg elevated, for 23 hours out of 24, and come back to see her in two days for more shots. Fortunately, her quick action reduced and finally eliminated the purple. She told me about cellulitis, how some call it the flesh-eating disease, and all the rest. That reinforced the long-sleeves/long-pants regime, and I have never regretted it. How about skin cancers? Every time I go to see my dermatologist, known as Skin-Man, he checks me over quickly and thoroughly, top to bottom, and most times he takes his little frozen-nitrogen bottle and blasts a few pre-cancerous lesions, which seem to arise anywhere on my body but seem never to get out of control. If the sun really “causes” skin cancer, I would expect to find it on my exposed parts–face, neck, ears, hands, etc.–but that’s not where the doctor zeroes in with his little cold-air bottle. He also told me to get out in the sun as close to naked as I legally can for fifteen minutes a day to get my Vitamin D; I try to do that, too. In my experience, then, insects are far more dangerous to my health than sunlight. I never use sunscreen, though I have it to offer to garden visitors (I grow about 15,000 daylilies) who want it. They usually request the insect repellent instead . . .

  7. This should never have become a problem.
    Ideally, light-skinned people should inhabit northern latitudes.
    And dark-skinned people should live at the equator.
    With a gradation of shades at all latitudes in between.
    That way everybody is suited to the sunlight intensity of the region in which they live.
    And they can meet their vitamin D requirements, whilst avoiding sun-burn and skin cancer.
    And there would be no need for sun-cream.
    I suggest that we solve this problem by redistributing everyone to their “correct latitudes”.
    This project would be of immense benefit to both mankind – and coral.
    I don’t imagine that there would be any political resistance to this project.
    Let’s start right away…All we need is wise global governance and a vast number of cattle-trucks!!
    (some sarc.)

    • You’ll have to drag me out of Florida kicking and screaming. It is about time old Darwin woke up and created skein that was adaptable to a more mobile population.

      • They’ll be lots of kicking and screaming involved. Guaranteed.
        But, we cannot let individual preferences and so called “libertarian free market philosophy” stand in the way of our plan to create a new utopian global regime based on “scientific principles”.
        And yes, I expect that in 100K years the skin of man will adapt to light levels like “transitions” sunglasses.
        Maybe, we could help it along by experimentally combining our genes with those of a squid.
        The results would be entertaining, even if not at all successful.

      • @Idefatigablefrog:
        Dark skin increases rickets in the polar areas.
        Light skin increases skin cancer in equatorial areas.
        Both pressures work as selective in the wild. (I.e. whithout vitamin pills and sunscreen).
        The selective pressure is a math function.
        The answer is that whites in equatorial areas become blacks and blacks near the poles become white in about 25000 years.
        Selection works and skin color does change. Just slowly for genetic shifts. (Tanning much faster).
        BTW, the widespread use of clothing is a big pressure to lighter skin everywhere. A pale redhead in the far north can get enough Vit D from 20 min. of sun on the face only. Extreme adaptation for dark cold clothed cloudy nordic climate. In less overcast Siberia the skin tends darker. YMMV based on diet, clothing, and genetics… but not too much….

    • @indefatigablefrog: I recall a package trip to the south of France from the usually gloomy UK. Participants of West Indies extraction laughing at “whities” slapping on sunscreen, then after a day or two having to rush off to get their own supply. Doesn’t matter what colour your skin, if you are not used to the sun, you’ll burn.

  8. “The daily use of sunscreen bearing an SPF of 15 or higher is widely acknowledged as essential to skin cancer prevention, ”
    This is simply wrong. SPFs 15 or higher essentially prevent tanning altogether, as 15 means the number of hours you would have to stay in the sun to get the equivalent of 1 hour of unprotected sunlight. As sunlight is available at full strength for a much shorter period each day and all temporary damage is fixed within 6 hours of exposure, SPFs of 15 to 30 prevent tanning. SPF 30 means you will not tan.
    This means that the first time you go outside unprotected for some unpredictable reason, you are going to get badly burned, and such burns set the stage for skin cancer.
    However, the best skin defense is to use your natural defenses as well as a moderate sunscreen. So, develop a decent tan and protect yourself with a SPF 6 or 8. This was you are safe from accidental exposures that might otherwise result in a serious burn. Basically, start the summer with SPF 8 and moderate, controlled exposure times, working up to longer and/or lowering the SPF to 6.

    • I don’t know how SPF numbers are determined, but I’ve gotten burned using SPF 20, was NOT swimming, and I reapplied after about 3 hours. Still got burned.

      • If I wear less than SPF 40 while spending the day hiking in CO at 10’000’+, I too will get burned.

      • You have to apply it as much as an hour before going into the sun.
        Most people put it on once they are on the beach or beside the pool.
        Vitamin D protects us from numerous diseases.
        The amount we get in half an hour of sun exposure on our skin is on the order of 20,000 i.u..
        Recommended daily allowance is 400 i.u.
        This is enough to prevent rickets, but do little of the numerous other functions that we need vitamin D for.
        Think about all the humans who ever lived before recent times…almost everyone spent a lot of time out of doors, even in winter in northern climes.
        Nowadays, some people never get any sun on thier skin, and if they do go out they wear a wide brimmed hat, giant sunglasses, head to toe clothing and or sunscreen…preventing the normal input of something every human used to get plenty of!
        The aesthetic appeal of s healthy person is based on millions of years of evolution telling our brain what characteristics to look for in a potential mate or hunting partner. People who are healthy and have good genes usually look great…advertising their fitness.
        So, in light of this, why does anyone suppose tan people look healthy and pale people look like they are on death’s doorstep?

      • Large amounts of vitamin D are so important for health and survival fitness, that people who migrated to high latitudes and perpetually cloudy regions lost most or all of the melanin from their skin.
        Those who did not so adapt did not pass on their genes very successfully.
        Ditto but reverse for lightly complected people in tropical latitudes/ perennially sunny locales.
        Of course, such adaptation and genetic weeding takes time…a few generations just give a glimpse of the ultimate result of such selection.
        People in northern regions get more cancer, except those who spend a lot of time outside…like farmers.

    • Why would we white guys want to get a tan ?? You should try the mountains for serious sunburn; not the beach.

    • While I support your numbers in theory, my wife will burn in a couple of hours even when using SPF50+. My point is everyone has different skin, and needs different amounts of protection.

    • The SPF number i.e. 15 means you can tolerate 15 times more sun than without. If you “burn” in 15 minutes it will take 3.75 hours with SPF 15. This is more a “rule of thumb” than precise and can vary between different individuals. The real risk is not re-applying frequently enough. Effectiveness will vary over time and activity.

  9. “Widely acknowledged” = scientific myth like fat makes you fat, and anti-bacterial soaps, creams, lotions, hand-sanitizers, etc. keep you from getting sick. The list of things people have been sold that are supposedly good for them is probably a mile long, but in addition to unnecessarily costing untold sums of money, they may in fact cause more harm than good.

    • I am so happy for my LCHF-lifestyle. Not only did I lose my type 2-diabetes and 40 kg, I also don’t need any sun screen anymore. Tested that theory @ Gran Canaria last year. Three whole days at the beach, in Speedos. No burn. Yeay, I’m coral safe!

  10. The researchers found concentrations of oxybenzone in the US Virgin Islands to be 23 times higher than the minimum considered toxic to corals.

    So why is the coral not all dead? Last time I looked, the coral in the USVI was doing just fine.
    “Suntan lotion kills coral” sounds familiar. Have we seen this before? Recycled alarmism, very ecological of them.

    • Yes, we have seen this before. Visit the Wikipedia page on oxybenzone. Reference 26: Than, Ker. “Swimmers’ Sunscreen Killing Off Coral”. National Geographic News. National Geographic News. Retrieved January 29, 2008.

    • I have no doubts that their conclusions hold at high concentrations. However, “toxic” means “make sick” not “kill outright”, so you would just see mild damage caused by the occasional wave of excessive contact with tourists. However, this would make them more sensitive to other environmental factors.
      On the other hand, a sewer system overflow could definitely a large quantity of damage, from heavy metals to algael blooms
      The problem as I see it is the low concentration that they are claiming to see effects (plus “endocrine disruption”, which has been abused horribly in the past to draw conclusions from stupidly low concentrations). That reeks of false positives and overinterpretation of zeros.

  11. “The researchers found concentrations of oxybenzone in the US Virgin Islands to be 23 times higher than the minimum considered toxic to corals.”
    As coral reefs thrive on the current of seawater through their structures, are they trying to tell us that the entire area is polluted with this chemical? Otherwise it is likely that the concentration was very transient and tilted out rapidly by the flow through.

    • Maybe the researchers were thinking of banning tourists from the Virgin Islands so they can conduct their research in peace and private.

  12. Bruce
    I have to agree. I stopped using sunscreen more that twenty years ago. Since I stopped I haven’t had a sunburn that I can remember and I haven’t taken any special precautions to avoid the sun. I the cancer and sunscreen tales are just B**l S**t we are told just to sell us another useless item. My list of these useless items is getting quite long.

    • That second last line should read ” I think the cancer and sunscreen tales are b**l s**t we are told to sell us another useless item.”

  13. If any bit of information ever needed to be hushed up, this is it. If word of this gets out, chicks will stop wearing bikinis!
    Oh, the humanity!

  14. We also have to ask about the conditions of the exposure. They indicate the concentration, but what was the exposure time. As water moves through the reef, such concentrations will be transient. We do not know what the time course of the experimental exposure was, which is very important. Transient exposures would be much less damaging, for sure.
    Also, it beggars the imagination to make sweeping statements of coral in the US Virgin Islands. Are we talking about a specific bathing beach or all of the reefs in the area? It would be hard to imagine the wold US Virign Islands under such a condition would see such pollution.
    [Typos fixed. ~mod.]

  15. “They also found that oxybenzone damaged the DNA of the corals, neutering their ability to reproduce and setting off a widespread decline in coral populations.” @62 PPT ! ! no one reading this thought of the fact that it is spread all over young children and young adults of child bearing age at levels measured in parts per hundred. Can only say I am glad I have NEVER used or pushed my kids to use sun screen,

    • “1.426 parts per billion? Just how did they manage to measure all of these amounts?”
      In the laboratory studies to find the minimum toxic level they were adding it to the seawater, so they did not need to measure it. They found that by adding 60ppt they could measure a toxic effect. In the “real ” samples from BVI and Hawaii, they measured from approximately 1ug/L, or 1 ppb. The abstract does not say the analytical method they used, but solid phase adsorption followed by HPLC with UV detection has been reported to have detection limits of 1ppb, and that is using very standard analytical apparatus.
      Because sunscreens are powerful UV absorbers, UV detection is very sensitive for them.

  16. Such suffering during research!

    “…The researchers found concentrations of oxybenzone in the US Virgin Islands to be 23 times higher than the minimum considered toxic to corals…”

    U.S. Virgin Islands!?
    23 times 62 parts per trillion works out to what? 1.426 parts per billion?
    Just how did they manage to measure all of these amounts?
    I suppose it would be too much to assume their time spent sampling tropical coral waters without wearing sunscreen? Given their severe adherence to laboratory standards in so many world class beach and coral habitats; surely there is some guarantee that their samples are pristine uncontaminated laboratory quality?
    Given their belief in sunscreen lethality, they assuredly know that anyone on the ‘team’ or boat wearing any sunscreen whatsoever for quite some time has likely contaminated their samples. 62 parts per trillion or a drop in six and one half swimming pools or is that one bead of researchers sweat or slip of a finger…
    Then. Then!

    “…Cells from seven species of corals were killed by oxybenzone at concentrations similar to those detected in ocean water samples. Three of the species that the researchers tested are currently listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act.”

    They willing poison threatened species and claim moral superiority while doing it!
    Extreme claims require extreme proof and absolutely independent replication!
    Did I mention that I want to be a verifier during the independent replications!? Either U.S. Virgin Islands or Australia will work for me, I do not mind.

    • yes, yes, I volunteer to go as part of the “control” group. Never have used sun screen just a minor bit of “rose” for the first three days of summer and never a burn thereafter. Where do we apply for the grant?

  17. We need a cap & trade scheme for sun lotion. The science is settled. We are nearing a tipping point and need to take action now or all the worlds reefs will perish! Make those evil sunbathers pay for SPF credits. /sarc

  18. In the golf business we even have sunscreen for our turf! Main ingredients zinc and titanium oxides. We spray on the greens and it reduces the damage from solar radiation that can harm very short cut turf (100″). Comes in 2.5 gal jugs that weigh 36 lbs. Should be enough to spray a whole beach of fair-skinned tanners and maybe a few elephants to boot.

    • Set up a spraying booth at the beach, charge a reasonable fee. Reapply for a half fee every 2-3 hours or after swimming. You can even add “shark repellent” which could be anything cheap. Just be sure you are at a beach where there has never been a shark attack when selling the “shark repellent additive”.

      • Big fingers and clumsy .100 or 2.5mm OR less than 2 dimes…stuff does seem to work well after testing, sprayed turf has much less stress from long hot summer days

  19. Benzophenone-3/Oxybenzone is an obsolete filter molecule, not any more (10-20 years) used in Europe. We have and use far superior UVA filters, which the FDA just not seems willing to release in the US. IMHO, B-3 should be banned.

  20. The main problem with sunscreen is once again low information people. It is commonly thought that if you are using sunscreen you stay out in the sun as long as you like. Not so. When a person gets a slight to medium burn, it is painful to go back out in the sun until it heals. That is the natural way of letting you know “Hey pal, you got too much of a good thing, lay low for a while”. Use of sunscreen is like taking pain killers for an untreated injury. It stops the hurt but doesn’t stop you from continuing to use the injured part. Eventually it becomes severe and permanently damaged.

    Measurements of oxybenzone in seawater within coral reefs
    in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands, for example, found
    concentrations ranging from 800 parts per trillion
    to 1.4 parts per million. This is over 12 times
    higher than the concentrations necessary to impact
    on coral.
    Between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion are
    emitted into coral reef areas each year, much of which
    contains between one and 10% oxybenzone.
    Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter,
    Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and
    Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination
    in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands

  22. Yet another AGW myth dispelled!
    We use a product called P20 by Riemann, you apply it once and it lasts for 10 hours, the wearer can go out in the sun 30 minutes after applying it, you can shower after it has been on for 30 minutes and still no sunburn. My wife is brunette, but fairly fair skinned I am blond our children are too. the only time we have ever burned is by not concentrating when applying it and then just a small patch of skin. We have used it in Morocco, Spain, Florida, California and Hawaii. It reacts with the dead skin which everyone has as a top layer and forms a protective barrier. I would guess the formulation will not affect the ecology of coral.
    PS I have absolutely no financial links with Riemann (or Big Oil)

    • Andrewmharding, P20 by Reimann contains, among other things, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate and/or Diethylexyl Butamido Triazone depending on SP factor.
      I don’t know if these have any effect on coral ecology, but I think we could not dismiss the possibility without testing.

  23. Having visited the Virgin Islands and Caribbean most years in the last 31 years I have seen a significant degradation in coral colonies there. We charter sailboats and have access to remote reefs that many people do not. The most damage appears to be closest to the largest population centers. The harder it is to get to the reef, the better condition they appear to be.

    • That is because the biggest reef threat in the Carribean (and Florida) is runoff pollution. The organic matter decomposes and produces trace hydrogen sulfide (H2S, swamp gas) dissolved in seawater. Marine organisms are exquisitely sensitive; the metabolic result is the same as cyanide in mammals, blocked oxygen uptake. The hydrogen sulfide LD50 for corals, shrimp, and crabs is just 35ppb. Essay Shell Games gives more details. This fact lies behind the bogus Milne Bay ‘coral acidification’ paper arguably comprising academic misconduct.

      • The hydrogen sulfide LD50 for corals, shrimp, and crabs is just 35ppb.
        Do you have reference in support of that claim, Rud?

        The water of so-called “black smokers” is rich in sulfides;
        Chemosynthetic bacteria obtain energy from the chemical bonds of hydrogen sulfide. In hydrothermal vent communities, these bacteria are the first step in the food chain. Many of these bacteria exist in symbiotic relationships with species in the vent fauna. They are hosted by vestimentiferan tubeworms, vesicomyd clams, and bathymodiolid mussels.
        There are shrimps that also host sulfur-dependent bacteria
        Galathied crabs, shrimp, graze bacteria on vent mussels (NOAA)

      • In Yellowstone there are species of algae that can survive in water that’s near boiling.
        So obviously all animals can survive water that’s near boiling.

      • In Yellowstone there are species of algae that can survive in water that’s near boiling.
        So obviously all animals can survive water that’s near boiling.

        = = = = = =
        According to Rud, corals,crabs and shrimp die in droves (50% mortality) when subjected to only 35 parts per billion of H2S.
        So obviously, corals, crabs and shrimp can’t survive and flourish in water enriched to 210 ppm.
        (Despite the fact some surely do.)
        If you could supply a reference to some real-world evidence in support of a limited version of Rud’s claim Mark, in which a subset of the named species suffer, I’d appreciate it.

  24. Perhaps the corals themselves should be using the sunscreen. After a short while, they would adapt to it, and thus the approaching thermageddon (like a million suns) would not even faze them. As for sealevel rising by hundreds of meters — also no problem: simply install solar-powered hydraulic jacks underneath each reef and set the switch to “up only”.

  25. Australia has plentiful sunlight, but the “slip, slop, slap” message – basically use sunscreen, shirt & hat – is so entrenched that Australia is the vitamin-D deficiency capital of the world. But when that was discovered, did the “slip, slop, slap” people apologize for putting the wrong message out? No, they just doubled up with extra government funding.
    So, rather than calling for a reduction in use of this vitamin-D deficiency and coral-bleaching causing chemical, I expect that they will simply attack the study & double up on the message again.

    • yup
      unless its biopsied a whole lotta spots called cancer precancer arent
      it bumps their stats up..
      like the bullshit mammograms
      for real skin cancer melanomas use BEC5
      search it
      144$ for 20ml
      it removes melanomas

  26. Man, this is a great thread. The research is questionable in my estimation (62 ppt!!! how clean are all the steps in getting the coral, preparing it, measuring it – 62ppt = 9 metres divided by the distance to the sun). But the powerhouse knowledge that is drawn forth here is a goldmine. I too have been skeptical about several things related to sun tans and skin cancer, ozone layers, etc.
    As mentioned, farmers making hay, etc. for 40 years puts them up there for exposure and they largely seem to be healthy. How can the ozone hole in Antarctica put sunbathers at risk. Any NASA image of the ozone on the globe shows the hole surrounded by a “rolled” collar of thicker ozone and the sunny destinations are normal. Also, I’m 78 and grew up on the prairies where it may be 40 below in winter, but goes over a 100 in the summer. I delivered newspapers as a kid and that put me out in the sun, without a hat and with a T-shirt and shorts and even bare feet sometimes.
    I think there is something to the idea that we now shower and scrub ourselves of our natural oils and vitamin A and block off our sweat glands with deodorant gel, wear all these miracle fibers, etc. I never saw a bottle of sunscreen for the first 40 years and I don’t remember skin cancer being something I even knew about until recent decades. Of course, I never saw anyone allergic to peanut butter, either – this was a staple in lunches of every school kid in my day. I believe we have let a lot of bunk become “wisdom” in this world over the past half a century and fear mongering has made us wimpy. Athsma is thought by some to be from stress – and we are constantly bombarded with scary stuff. I pretty much resist most of it.

    • According to the National Cancer Institute’s- Agricultural Health Study-
      “However, compared with the general population, the rates for certain diseases, including some types of cancer, appear to be higher among agricultural workers, which may be related to exposures that are common in their work environments. For example, farming communities have higher rates of leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and soft tissue sarcoma, as well as cancers of the skin, lip, stomach, brain, and prostate.”
      Gary, I also grew up barefooted, and running around outside all summer. But our yard was surrounded by huge trees, and I had a treehouse, so I spent a lot of time in the shade. Being a fairskinned redhead, I burned easily, and got sun stroke quickly, so I learned to stay OUT of the sun for my own sake. My father never used a sun screen in his life, but spent his retirement from the military fishing, golfing, and doing outdoor chores, and he developed skin cancer in his 50’s.
      My father being one man doesn’t prove much, just like you being one man who’s experience was different doesn’t prove much. We all have unique genetic makeups and none of us respond to the sun in exactly the same way.
      This study doesn’t have anything to do with how “clean” steps were in “getting the coral, preparing it, measuring it – 62ppt = 9 metres divided by the distance to the sun).” etc.
      The scientists in this study apparently exposed healthy coral to varying amounts of oxybenzone in controlled, laboratory conditions to see if it caused problems for the coral. They found that the LOWEST concentration of oxybenzone that caused a toxic response from the coral was 62 ppt in water; “equivalent to a drop of water in six and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools,”. Then they went out to coral reefs and took samples of the WATER around those reefs and measured the amount of oxybenzone in those samples-which came back at much higher concentrations than 62ppt.

    • Rather than measuring a concentration of 62 ppt, it’s easier to get there via serial dilution. Create a 1% solution, and use successive dilution to get down to any concentration you wish. Using volumetric flasks of 1 litre and 100 ml, you can get to the ppt level with 10 dilutions.

    • Sun exposure isn’t the be-all end-all of skin cancer, but the cause and effect is extremely well supported. The advertisements of sunblock, not so much (SPF above 15 is so poorly regulated that it’s effectively meaningless, and the reapplication requirements vary so much between people that it really should be on a case by case basis. For me, every two hours is horribly excessive). The key is realistically: don’t let yourself get burned. The burn is the damage, and damage to any area (especially burns in general) makes it more prone to cancer.
      However, also remember. 100 years ago, living to 60 was a rarity, and living to 80 made you ancient. Now, 80 is a fine but not uncommon feat. Cancer growth accellerates with age, so an aging population will by definition be more cancerous. Finally, diagnosis has greatly increased as well, leading to apparent growth on top of real growth.
      Let’s not skip skepticism and rush headlong into cynical nihilism. There is a gap between science and marketing, but the science itself is not insignificant or really ambiguous on this matter.

      • Lots of articles on children with rickets in Scotland caused by overly cautious mothers slathering on the sunblock. Personally during the winter months, living in Southern Vermont, I take 12000 iu of liquid D3 daily. And the winter months means November through May.

  27. This hypothesis looks quite easy to test: do the places where coral bleaches correlate with the places where white people swim or where their effluents go? FWIW I’m suspicious of this hypothesis, as I am of the “ocean acidification” coral bleaching hypothesis.

    • Mike Jonas,
      It might be even easier to test:
      Find the places where coral bleaching has taken place (or if it’s everywhere, find the locations where bleaching is most severe).
      Then find out if those places are used for public swimming (or for any swimming). Find out who uses the places where corals have bleached. Also, compare each year over the past, say, twenty years.
      I think you would find that bleaching has nothing to do with melanin.

      • dbstealey-
        “Oxybenzone pollution predominantly occurs in swimming areas, but it also occurs on reefs 5-20 miles from the coastline as a result of submarine freshwater seeps that can be contaminated with sewage,” said Dr. Bronstein”
        Did you catch the second part? “Submarine freshwater seeps that can be contaminated with sewage”. So people who are NOT swimming or snorkeling just offshore, but wearing sunscreen, take showers that wash that sunscreen down the drain, into the “sewage system” of some islands, and that water goes out to sea again. Now think about cruise ships. Federal law requires that cruise ships only dump treated wastewater (vs pure untreated sewage) if they are within three nautical miles of shore. How much sunscreen is used on a cruise ship, showered off into their wastewater, and then dumped before the ship gets too close to land?
        Mike Jonas-
        While light skinned people tend to be the wearers of sunscreen, darker skinned people also get sunburned. Bob Marley died from a melanoma on his foot that eventually metastasized inside him. Death by cancer on the inside, caused by cancer on the outside.

    • No need. Just turn off the Sun. No skin cancer. No CAGW. No one left to be harmed.
      If the IPCC “et al” know what controls and how to control Climate, they must know how to control ol’ Sol.

  28. Similar thing happened with frogs- they were “victims of climate change”. Turned out the researchers were transmitting the lethal chytridiomycosis infection.

  29. On holiday in the Yucatan peninsular we were told not to use sun tan lotions as it killed the coral. That was in 2001!

    • So instead of “Save the Whales” we should now “Save the Coral and the Skin Cancer”?
      I used to think that these people thought that “2+2=5”. Now I’m not so sure they know what “+” means.

  30. More fun info-
    National Geographic was talking about Sunscreen killing coral reefs 7 years ago in 2008-
    “Humans can absorb anywhere from 0.4% to 8.7% of oxybenzone after one topical application of sunscreen, as measured in urine excretions. This number can increase after multiple applications over the same period of time.”
    Benzophenones are used in hairspray, sunscreen, fragrances, cosmetics, nail polish, and in plastic food containers as an ultraviolet light absorber and stabilizer, and as a hardener in resins like Plexiglass and Lucite. Surfboards, scuba gear, boats….this stuff is everywhere.

  31. Obviously we need more sharks to keep more people from going to the beach and into the water.
    (That or make watching “Jaws” compulsory each spring each year at all levels of public education.)

  32. Didn’t bother reading but I hope it’s an old article since we’ve known this for twenty years.

  33. Everybody is missing the whole point. The supposed effects of AGW is not the only thing that is potentially harmful to coral reefs. There, simple. Or let me put it another way. Getting hit by a car is not the only way you can die suddenly.

  34. Perhaps there is a Halloween costume or three in this somewhere.
    We have Dr. Downs of Heretics Environmental Laboratories, with coral embryos encased in their own skeletons, bleaching, mouths five time larger than usual, unable to live in the sea. And the little drop of the XXXXX chemical in your skin protection product.

  35. Here’s a blog by a biochemist that pooh poohs the fear about oxybenzone. The authors he quotes for the chemophobic stuff on human endocrine, DNA, reproductive hormone interference (all mentioned in this corals are gonna die article). He points to the enormous dosages (50,000ppm) used in the studies reckoning that you would have to eat it by the spoonful and yes, it does occur naturally as an aromatic in flowers and other plant parts!! Gee a few posies by the sea side may be wiping out the Great Barrier Reef.

  36. “This study was sponsored by ‘Organoblock’ manufacturers of sunblock that doesn’t contain the above chemical…”

    • Leo Smith October 20, 2015 at 8:03 pm
      “This study was sponsored by ‘Organoblock’ manufacturers of sunblock that doesn’t contain the above chemical…”
      “This study sponsored by Tom’s organic switch grass toothpaste. Try it on your nose next time at the beach. For further results invest in the only product that is legal since the others were regulated out of existence yay”

  37. The definitive word on the noxious nature of oxybenzone comes from the trio of NOWAY satellites orbiting the Earth at 37,329 km above the 1982 global mean sea-level.
    Multiple sensors and an astonishingly complex array of charge coupled devices isolate the signature emissions of these enigmatic molecules as they migrate from the surface of pallid people to the precarious polyps of the world’s coral reefs.
    Although the precision of the sensors is not sufficient to actually capture the interactions of oxybenzone and the polypeptides that it imperils, the satellites clearly reveal the incremental reduction in the molecule’s concentration as the polyp mouths inexorably close.
    The satellite sensors are continually calibrated by Earth-bound super computers taking advantage of week-end idle time. Algorithms are applied to the most recent data from on-line advertising and travel periodicals, indicating the raw mass of humanity migrating towards sea-side destinations within 20 kilometres of known coral reefs; thus providing a robust proxy for input of oxybenzone into this incredibly fragile eco-system.
    Skeptics claim that, without including homogenized, regional sun-block sales in the preceding 13.7 months, the results are not unambiguous.

  38. This is exactly what we are finding in Hawaii. It is a disease, a chemical or both. The Warmists have driven the research and rewarded the nut cases with stupid grants for three years while actual causation is put aside for looney left political goals re CGW.
    They are insane. The Warmists are crazy!

  39. a swimmer needs sunblocker for 60 – 80 kg body mass.
    1000 swimmers a day on the beach wash sunblockers for 60 – 80 tons coral biomass into the seawater.*
    Maybe a first ‘natural’ approach to get a picture.
    Regards – Hans
    *not everyday of the year, not all beaches of the globe!

  40. This is nothing new (or at least I thought). Australia found this out decades ago. When they banned swimmers from certain areas, the corals began to come back. The reason was traced in a big way to the toxicity of sun screen.
    I think the WSJ reported this.. but it has been so long I can’t remember for sure.

  41. Further evidence of just how correct Dr. Patrick Moore is: spending all our money and attention on CO2 prevents us from finding and hopefully fixing real problems.
    I can’t help but believe, as ice sheets grind their way across continents, the global warming crowd will continue to beat the “carbon is evil” drum, and work with redoubled effort to curtail “carbon emissions” and to silence deniers.

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