Sunscreen check: Are you contributing to coral bleaching?
In a stressful environment, coral reefs will expel the algae that they need to survive. When the environment doesn’t go back to normal, for example, when temperatures stay too high for too long, the corals won’t let the algae back in, they then lose their colour and eventually die.
Why coral reefs are important
They are part of a wider ecosystem that marine animals use to survive. Once coral reefs die out, they aren’t easy to get back. It can take 10,000 years or more for a coral reef to form and fully mature, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States.
How you can help
Your contribution could be in your cosmetics bag. Most sunscreens have two UV-blocking ingredients called oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been shown to cause coral bleaching.
Sunscreens with these ingredients have even been banned in places like Hawaii, Aruba and Palau, to name a few.
When you apply sunscreen before swimming in the ocean, the sunscreen washes off into the water where coral reefs can absorb it.
South Africa is looking at amending some of the regulations related to the labelling, advertising and composition of cosmetics, says Peter Mbelengwa, the spokesperson for the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.
Safe to use
Here are a few sunscreens that are rated reef-safe and available in South Africa: