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Sunscreens are destroying coral reefs

Un nuovo studio ha dimostrato che un ingrediente presente nella maggior parte delle lozioni solari ha un impatto devastante sui coralli.

Coral reefs are one of the planet’s richest habitats. They offer shelter and sustenance to an incredible variety of animal and plant species. However, climate change and the rising ocean acidification, added to man-related impacts, are deteriorating these ecosystems.

 

barriera corallina
Coral reef © Noaa

 

Scientists have discovered a new threat: sunscreens. According to a study carried out by an international team of researchers, these products, which protect our skin from burn and UV rays, are jeopardising coral reef survival worldwide.

 

Most of sun creams contain an ingredient that is toxic to corals, the oxybenzone. This chemical, developed to filter UV rays, not only kills the coral, it causes DNA damage in adults and deforms the DNA in coral in the larval stage, making it unlikely they can develop properly.

 

The study, published by the magazine Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, shows that the higher oxybenzone concentration levels are located near coral reefs of the most popular tourist sites, such as the Caribbean and Hawaii.

 

crema solare -
Over 3,500 sunscreen products contain the oxybenzone, chemical hazardous to corals

 

According to researchers, in areas home to coral reefs, 6,000 to 14,000 tonnes of sun cream are used every year, many of them containing the hazardous substance. In fact, oxybenzone is contained in over 3,500 sunscreen products worldwide.

 

“The use of oxybenzone-containing products needs to be seriously deliberated in islands and areas where coral reef conservation is a critical issue,” said Craig Downs, researcher at the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory and lead author of the study.

 

Some areas of the world are taking measures to restore coral reefs. In Australia, for instance, the government is testing a new technique to help coral reefs face the steady increase in sea temperatures, by genetically modifying coral species.

 

allevamento di coralli
Coral rearing

 

Moreover, in Indonesia, an artist realised an artificial coral reef to shelter marine biodiversity. However, such interventions, according to Dawns, will be useless if the root causes of the death of coral reefs are not tackled.

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