Humans are 60% to 78% water. On hot days drinking water helps to prevent heat stress, but what about animals that live in the water? More and more scientific research is coming out now highlighting the significant impact humanity has had on marine life. Recent studies have shown that chemical sunscreens could be slowly poisoning coral reefs. Some scientists feel they may have a greater impact on marine wildlife than climate change. The state of Hawaii has passed a law banning these harmful chemicals from being used within the state, in order to raise awareness and conservation of the coral that lives just off the shores of the Hawaiian islands. This law will go in to effect in 2021, at which time all sunscreens containing the ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate will be banned. These chemicals were found to have been poisoning the coral and can cause bleaching, deformities and even damage their DNA, causing the eventual death of the afflicted coral and impacting the symbiosis of the marine ecosystem.
Here are some alternatives to help prevent severe sunburn and still help the planet.
- Find Cover!
This may seem really obvious but, the best way to prevent sunburn is to decrease your sun exposure. By covering your skin whenever necessary, wearing hats and sunglasses, you will drastically reduce your risk of ending up in urgent care with severe sunburn. You can also find some clothing that is specifically rated for UV protection made from breathable materials.
- Find Shade!
Make a point of sitting in the shade, the sun can’t burn you if you’re not in it. Even minor burns can be prevented by shade.
- Reef Safe Sunscreen
Looking for sunscreen that doesn’t contain the banned chemicals will give you sun protection with less impact on the coral. As scientists continue to explore the impact of these chemicals and develop better ways to protect yourself in the sun, the best reef safe sunscreens will become more clear. For now, do the best you can. Most reef safe sunscreens are referred to as ‘physical sunscreens’ as opposed to ‘chemical sunscreens’ which typically contain those harmful chemicals.
- Find Cover!
Doctors and urgent care clinics are emphasizing the importance of these forms alternative sun protection, as the law is implemented. Being aware of your own impact on the environment, whether the ocean or land, is an important first step in saving the planet.