An estimated 6,000 tons of sunscreen finds its way in and around ocean reefs each year, according to The National Park Service. Others estimate as much as 14,000 tons of sunscreen ends up in the world's coral reefs every year, negatively impacting the ecosystem. The chemicals found in conventional sunscreens are leaking into reefs and contributing to the decline of coral reefs in our waters. This influx of chemicals from sunscreen, together with overfishing and pollution, has led to a serious decline in the overall conditions of the world's oceans.
“Sunscreen pollution is a real phenomenon and it poses a threat to coral reefs and aquatic life. It’s also a major factor in decreased water quality,”
– Craig Downs, Ph.D., Executive director ofHaereticus Environmental Laboratory
The environmental risks caused by sunscreen have prompted several sunscreen manufacturers to produce their own reef-safe formulas. In fact, sunscreen pollution in our waters has reached such heights that popular vacation spots like Palau, the Marshall Islands, the Virgin Islands, the Florida Keys, and Hawaii have banned sunscreens containing chemicals that harm the environment. This law came into full effect in Hawaii in January 2021, banning over 3,500 sunscreen products and making it only possible to buy reef-safe sunscreens on the island.
What exactly is reef-safe sunscreen? Let’s take a closer look.