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How to Keep our Reefs Safe & Reef Safe Sunscreen: TruKid

What there is to know about Reef Safety, and Reef Safe Sunscreen: TruKid;  There is a lot to know! Warm, shallow, sun-drenched seas sparkling with brilliantly colored fish and coral species—we’ve all seen dazzling images of tropical reefs. Coral reefs are among the most biologically productive and diverse ecosystems in the world, providing food protein for half a billion people. But tropical reefs have begun dying from bleaching, with the frequency and spatial extent of such bleaching increasing dramatically over the past 20 years. Now a study finds that chemical compounds in sunscreen products can cause abrupt and complete bleaching of hard corals, even at extremely low concentrations [EHP 116:441–447; Danovaro et al.]. Zooxanthellae, symbiotic algae that live in healthy coral tissue, provide nutrients to corals through photosynthesis. The algae also help make the spectacular colors for which corals are known. The corals lose their color when zooxanthellae die or leave the reef; the protective skeletons of the corals are thus exposed, and the corals die. Rising seawater temperatures, bacterial and viral diseases, ultraviolet light or other radiation, and pollution have been blamed for coral bleaching. Scientists at the Polytechnic University of the Marche Region in Ancona, Italy, studied the effects of sunscreen exposure on samples from tropical reefs. The researchers collected branches of hard coral from sites in the Red Sea, the Caribbean Sea, the Indian Ocean off Thailand, and the Pacific Ocean near Indonesia. Coral branches were immersed in bags of virus-free seawater supplemented with various quantities of sunscreen, then incubated in the sea. These samples were compared with controls also incubated in the sea in virus-free seawater. The researchers found that among the several brands of sunscreen tested, four commonly found ingredients—paraben, cinnamate, benzophenone, and camphor derivatives—can stimulate dormant viral infections in zooxanthellae. The sunscreen chemicals caused viruses within zooxanthellae to replicate until their algal hosts exploded, spilling viruses into the surrounding seawater, which could then spread infection to nearby coral communities. Seawater surrounding coral exposed to sunscreen contained up to 15 times more viruses than unexposed samples. Several brands of popular sunscreens were tested and all had four ingredients in common: paraben, cinnamate, benzophenone, and a camphor derivative.  TruKid is a very popular brand of sunscreen, but its Sunny Days SPF 30+ Face & Body sunscreen stick does not contain any of these ingredients, and is only uses natural, safe, biodegradable, reef safe ingredients. Coral bleaching occurred, often within a few hours, but always within 4 days, at sunscreen quantities as small as 10 μL/L (micro liters per . Controls remained healthy.  The researchers estimate that 4,000 to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers annually in oceans worldwide, and that up to 10 percent of coral reefs are threatened by sunscreen-induced bleaching. The study suggests that, as tourism continues to increase in tropical reef areas, the impact of sunscreens on coral bleaching could rise significantly in the future. Scientists say banning sunscreen won't be necessary, and point out two simple things swimmers can do to reduce their impact on coral: Use sunscreens with physical filters (like zinc), which reflect instead of absorb ultraviolet radiation; and use eco-friendly synthetic chemical-free sunscreens.   Four common ingredients found in chemical based, non-biodegradable sunscreen sitting on most Drugstore and Sports Shop shelves were shown to cause complete coral bleaching at very low concentrations.  These ingredients are the chemical filters that absorb ultraviolet radiation, instead of reflect.  As you will see below, not only do they damage the coral, but they damage the human being wearing the sunscreen.  They are: * Oxybenzone  (benzophenone-3) -  developmental and reproductive toxicity, a broad class of health effects that can range from infertility and reproductive organ cancers to birth defects and developmental delays for children.  Readily absorbed through the skin and produces estrogen like effects so should not be used by pregnant women or children.  Resists breakdown in the environment and builds up in wildlife and human tissues for years after exposure.  (EWG) * Butylparaben - Causes risks of cancer, endocrine problems, skin disorders and allergies in humans.  Readily absorbs through the skin.  Accumulates in the oceans. This chemical does not break down easily and is harmful to marine life.  (EWG) * Octinoxate (Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate) - developmental and reproductive toxicity, a broad class of health effects that can range from infertility and reproductive organ cancers to birth defects and developmental delays for children.  Readily absorbed through the skin and produces estrogen like effects so should not be used by pregnant women or children.  Resists breakdown in the environment and builds up in wildlife and human tissues for years after exposure.  (EWG) * 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor (4MBC) - developmental and reproductive toxicity, a broad class of health effects that can range from infertility and reproductive organ cancers to birth defects and developmental delays for children.  Readily absorbed through the skin and produces estrogen like effects so should not be used by pregnant women or children.  Resists breakdown in the environment and builds up in wildlife and human tissues for years after exposure.  (EWG) The Centers for Disease Control published a national survey of 2,500 Americans, age 6 and up, showing that the UV filter oxybenzone readily absorbs into the skin and is present in 97% of Americans tested (Calafat AM, et al. 2008. Environ Health Perspect. 2008;116). We can all minimize our negative impact on our inner and outer ecology by using sunscreens with physical filters, which reflect instead of absorb ultraviolet radiation; and choosing eco-friendly chemical sunscreens.  Use sunscreens that use zinc and/or titanium as the physical filter that reflects instead of absorbs the UV radiation from the sun. But don’t be fooled.  Just because the first ingredient might be zinc, be sure and read the labels, verifying that the rest of the ingredients are safe and natural.  TruKid sunscreens use zinc and/or titanium, and naturally derived ingredients for the rest of the formulation. These natural sunscreens really work and are rated by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) as to their effectiveness ,water-resistance, and, biodegradable formulations.  There is no governmental agency, law or ordinance in place in the United States that governs the use of the words “biodegradable” and/or “reef safe” on the labeling of sunscreens.  So be sure and do your homework.  Read labels and check the EWG ratings of the products that you are using.  And once again, notice that all of TruKid’s sunscreens are listed on the EWG “Best Sunscreens of 2011” list. TruKid Sunny Days, SPF 30+ Face & Body sunstick does not contain any of these offending ingredients.  It is biodegradable and reef safe, containing only natural ingredients and was only one of TruKid’s sunscreens to be voted as one of the best, safest, sunscreens by the Environmental Working Group for 2011.   Until Next Time, Enjoy the Summer and Don’t Forget the Sunscreen!! Dr. Kathy
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