Editorial: Protect yourself and the reefs with the right sunscreen

It’s summer and the sun is shining bright, which is why it’s a golden time to highlight July as UV Safety Awareness Month. Because Florida is known for sunshine year round, the need to protect the skin from the sun has become more important over the years. Even though we may love the outdoors, going to the beach and tanning, there are serious consequences that follow due to too much sun exposure. Overexposure to the sun’s UV-A and UV-B rays causes sunburn, premature aging of the skin, wrinkling and skin cancer.

There are many things to minimize sun exposure, such as covering up, staying in the shade and wearing the right sun screen.

Wearing sunscreen is vital because the U.S. FDA’s regulations for sunscreen labeling recommend that your sunscreen have a SPF of at least 15, and should protect against both UV-A and UV-B rays. The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention recommends applying about 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen every two hours. Even if the sunscreen is waterproof, if you are sweating or swimming, you should apply sunscreen more often.

However, while it’s important that we protect our skin by applying sunscreen, we need to remember that the type of sunscreen we use affects the environment around us. A chemical in sunscreen may be contributing to the destruction of the coral reefs, as reported by Time.

A study published in the journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, found that the chemical oxybenzone has toxic effects on young coral that causes endocrine disruption, DNA damage and death of coral, and coral bleaching, among other the problems.

The U.S. National Park Service estimates that about 4,000 and 6,000 tons of sunscreen enters coral reef areas around the world each year. While sunscreen poses a significant ecological threat, we are not advocating for swimmers to stop wearing sunscreen. Instead, we urge you to buy “reef-friendly” products.

Knowing your labels is the first step in protecting yourself and the reefs. Even though sunscreens with titanium oxide or zinc oxide have not been found to harm reefs, according to the National Park Service, they aren’t entirely worry-free options. A good rule of thumb is to shop for simpler formulas. It’s also better to use SPF lotions and creams instead of spray because the spray is more likely to spread in the air and stick to the sand than to your skin.

While it’s important to understand how to protect ourselves from too much sun exposure, it’s also important to understand the risks and dangers we bring on our environment. We can reduce the risk of harming the coral reefs by taking a more “reef friendly” approach to sun protection.


Photo taken from Flickr.

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