Protect Coral Reefs From Poisonous Sunscreen Ingredients

Target: Dr. Stephen Ostroff, M.D., Commissioner of Food and Drugs

Goal: Ban harmful ingredients in sunscreens that cause toxic damage to coral reefs.

A team of international scientists recently found that oxybenzone, a chemical compound found in most sunscreens that filters out UVA rays, is causing toxic damage to coral reefs around the globe. An estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotions wash through coral reefs every year, and experts have found that only a drop of sunscreen lotion can cause irreparable damage to the fragile reefs.

The harmful consequences of oxybenzone affect coral in three life stages. While coral is in the larval stage, oxybenzone causes deformities that prevent the larvae from floating and distributing among the reef by trapping them within their own skeletons. Adult coral exposed to oxybenzone concentrations similar to those found in water samples taken from Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Israel suffer DNA damage. This chemical compound also causes coral bleaching, which is when the algae that lives inside coral is lost or expelled, leading to loss of nutrients and eventually, coral death. Oxybenzone concentrations are higher in areas of heavy beach and coral reef tourism, but washing sunscreen off in the shower causes this chemical to end up in waterways and eventually the ocean.

There are effective alternatives to harmful oxybenzone which are not toxic to coral reefs. Titanium oxide and zinc oxide are natural mineral ingredients which filter out UVA rays.  Craig Downs, executive director and researcher of Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, said, “We have lost at least 80 percent of the coral reefs in the Caribbean. Any small effort to reduce oxybenzone pollution could mean that a coral reef survives a long, hot summer, or that a degraded area recovers.”

By signing the petition below you will help urge the Commissioner of Food and Drugs to ban this toxic chemical compound that is degrading coral life and encourage companies which develop hygienic products to use natural mineral ingredients.


Dear Dr. Ostroff,

The harmful chemical compound oxybenzone must be banned as an ingredient in sunscreen lotions due to the toxic damage it wrecks on our delicate coral reef systems. The FDA must prohibit even minimal concentrations of oxybenzone as they cause irreparable deformities, DNA damage, and mortality of over eight species of coral.

Alternative natural mineral filters of UVA rays exist, such as titanium oxide and zinc oxide, and are currently used in safe and effective sunscreen lotions on the market. These minerals sit on top of the skin instead of being absorbed into the skin, making them healthier and safer for human use as well as being non detrimental to marine life.

I am urging you to put an end to the use of oxybenzone in sunscreen lotions in order to limit further toxic damage to coral life. Please take actions to enforce policies against toxic chemicals in sunscreen lotions and encourage companies that develop hygienic products to use other available methods of UVA filtration.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Dan Dennison

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One Comment

  1. “The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future – deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease.” — The World Watch Institute

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