Is your sunscreen coral reef safe?

The first question I get asked these days when I show our spray sunscreen is: Is it safe for the Coral reefs?

Hawaii took a strong position on banning an ingredient found in many sunscreens, Oxybenzone. When the state approved the ban starting in 2021, Octinoxate was also included in the ban.

I have been making sunscreens for over 25 years and have cared about the environment my whole life. The Human race are consumers and we are consuming the earth. People (Humans) have been very hard on the planet and continue to deplete the ozone and add more “toxins” into the air and water. 

What is killing the coral reefs? What we know for sure is that this has been noticed as early as 1970. The fact is: pollution, climate change (real or fake), coastal development, overfishing and human interaction are causing coral bleaching.

What is coral bleaching? Bleaching occurs when the coral-algae alliance breaks down, which was rare until decades ago.

coral bleachingP.L. Jokiel was one of the first scientists to study coral bleaching in the early ’70s, thanks to a sneak preview in Hawaii’s Kaneohe Bay. Once-vibrant reefs had turned white just as a new power plant began dumping hot water into the bay, alarming coral experts. “None of the scientists who were out here in the 1970s had ever seen a bleached coral,” Jokiel says. They soon proved not only that hot water can bleach coral, but that each species has its own range of tolerable temperatures. “We showed that all corals in the world are living within 1 to 2 degrees [Celsius] of their upper limit in the summer months,” Jokiel adds. “It’s that small of a difference, but it has held up beautifully through time.” Until recently, that is. While the Kaneohe Bay events weren’t caused by climate change, they did offer a glimpse of what it can do. It’s not that reefs simply roast; rather, warmer water makes zooxanthellae start producing toxins, forcing the corals to evict their algae back out to sea — and leaving a reef looking “bleached,” with its white skeleton showing through the translucent polyps. Gradually increase in water temperatures, spreading to reefs, until a “global bleaching” event finally struck in 1998, which killed an estimated 16 percent of all corals on Earth. 

As I read more information and tried to come up with “what’s killing the coral” I’m trying to understand the tie to oxybenzone and other chemicals. The bleaching of the coral, found back in 1970 had NOTHING to do with oxybenzone, nor did the global even in 1998, the second global even in 2010 or third in 2015, it was the increase in water temperature and everything else (pollution, development…). 

If you care about the planet, you will do what you can to save it and every little bit helps. If you care about people, you do what you can do to help. We at Bu Brands do our best to protect both.

So that you can decide for your self, since it’s hard to cut through the information on the web, See attached article/sites of the two studies focusing on Oxybenzone as the culprit. Other articles/sites questioning the study and Hawaii’s ban, including one from Smithsonian.com. Quoting Cinzia Corinaldesi, a marine ecology researcher, who has studied the impact of sunscreens on coral reefs since 2003.”The problem is that unfortunately, oxybenzone is not the only harmful ingredient of sunscreens.” Other UV filters, including zinc oxide, are proving to have an impact on coral bleaching—and the ban does nothing to prevent these.”
Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science/scientists-are-unraveling-new-dangers-sunscreen-coral-reefs-180969627/#jixyzDa30kIppuOA.99

The article/site below questions the studies done, as they have not been peer reviewed and like the study on Oxybenzone being a possible endocrine disrupter (Margret Schlump 2001), by feeding whopping doses to test rats, this study concluded that the concentration of Oxybenzone threatens the resilience of coral reefs to climate change. I think everything we do to the reef, plus climate change, threatens the reef of course Oxybenzone is included (what about Titanium or Zinc, Oil, Petro-chemicals, Industrial waste,……)

https://phys.org/news/2019-02-insufficient-evidence-sunscreen-coral-reefs.html

Titanium, Zinc, and all the chemicals, I can say without fear of contradiction, no one really knows which is the best and which is safest for all stake-holders, including Mother Earth. To Humans, which one of the three options, could potentially harm us the most? Sun, Chemical or Mineral.

After speaking to numerous doctors and competitors, I believe the best sunscreen is one that you will use, feels great on your skin, is easy to apply and works!  

Bu sunscreens do not contain Oxybenzone, but I’m not sure that’s the issue for the reefs or humans.

Bu sunscreens are safe and effective and use Octinoxate (that got added to the Hawaii ban- though after 2021, you will still be able to get sunscreen with Oxybenzone or Octinoxate with a prescription), hmm.

If these ingredients are proven to be a serious detriment to the planet, we will make changes. Currently there are very, very limited opinions in regard to ingredients approved by the FDA. Here is the kicker, there has been sooo much pressure and noise for the FDA to allow European sunscreen ingredients (which are CHEMICALS- with less years of information on the long term effects) to be approved, BUT Oxybenzone and Octinoxate unsafe? Things that make you say, hmmm. Here’s a great article on more ingredients for Sun Protection and testing of existing ingredients: https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/2/22/18235262/fda-sunscreen-regulations-safety-testing

BU cares about the environment and we take pride in our environmental stewardship using recyclable packaging and recyclable non-pressurized aerosol pumps, and all our products are produced using sustainable Solar power, using the power of the sun to protect you from the power of the sun! 

More articles, so you can make up your own mind.

https://interactive.carbonbrief.org/can-great-barrier-reef-survive-climate-change/

https://mashable.com/2015/11/10/sunscreen-killing-coral-reefs/#q2uw2mK3u5q3

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/4x398m/is-sunscreen-from-snorkelers-killing-coral-reefs

Are Sunscreens Bad for the Environment?

The Truth About Sunscreens and Coral Reefs

I find this article in very interesting, written in 2012 by Jean-Michel Cousteau, who spends a great deal of time in the ocean and cares about protecting it. The original “Reef Safe” sunscreen, at the time of this article had Oxybenzone and Octinoxate and had conducted studies with a 3rd party independent testing facility showing how the ingredients are biodegradable and confirms that minerals, Titanium and Zinc, bioaccumulate in the ocean. BUT, Mr. Cousteau and his crew still need to protect themselves from the damaging UV rays, hence safe and effective sun protection is required.

https://www.aoml.noaa.gov/keynotes/keynotes_0914_coral_bleaching.html

Another interesting article from the Florida Key, who is discussion banning Oxybenzone and Octinoxate. No mention of these in the article, instead increased water temperature: “Data from the Molasses Reef C-MAN station showed that the winter of 2014 was the warmest on record since these stations began recording data in 1988.  The second warmest winter on record was the winter of 1996/97, which preceded back-to-back bleaching years in the Keys (1997/98) and was the worst bleaching event ever documented in the Florida Keys.  The most recent significant bleaching event in the Florida Keys occurred in 2005, and there have been mild localized bleaching events since then.”

https://www.treehugger.com/ocean-conservation/doubling-down-coral-reefs.html

Sunscreen Safety

5 Main Causes of Coral Reef Destruction

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/3ShcTJ032pp1z2mmkBJMhLX/10-amazing-facts-about-coral-reefs-and-one-terrible-truth

OF course, here’s an article/site on Reef Repair Sunscreen, which states Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide are minerals (which they are) but are Biodegradable. Biodegradable? How? They are minerals, unlike the chemicals that do biodegrade, these minerals Bio-accumulate, again, hmmm, but you should buy their products?  https://www.reefrepair.org/learn/environment/why-chemicals-are-bad-for-reefs-and-humans

and another article from the NOAA, who’s chart doesn’t mention sunscreen but article says it’s Oxybenzone: https://www.leisurepro.com/blog/ocean-news/5-main-coral-reef-destruction/

In my opinion, it’s OK to use both organic (chemical) and inorganic (minerals) sunscreens to keep yourself alive and well. We will also continue to review, test, initiate studies on the safety of sunscreens and will do what we can to help globally.