Should we ban reef toxic sunscreen in Australia?

Should we ban reef toxic sunscreen in Australia?

*** Don’t feel like reading? watch the video here ***

2020 will be a big year for the Great Barrier Reef. In 2015, which is when the World Heritage Committee last did an extensive review of the Great Barrier Reef, the Great Barrier narrowly avoided the status of “in danger”. The Reef Plan 2050 was published by the Commonwealth and Queensland government to ensure that the reef continues to improve on its Outstanding Universal Value every decade.

In 2020, the Committee will re-assess the Great Barrier Reef and decide whether or not it is now considered “in danger”. Since 2015, the health of the reef has generally declined. (GBR Outlook Report 2019 and The joint Australian/Queensland Government’s GBR Water Quality report card).

Great Barrier Reef
Heart Reef in the Great Barrier Reef, viewed from a Seaplane

How can we help the Great Barrier Reef?

Climate change has been recognised to be the highest threat to the reef. From more intense cyclone to an increase in water temperatures and acidity, climate change is threatening the reef.

As the reef becomes more vulnerable, other problems become more and more apparent: Reef toxic sunscreen.

According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, there are approximately 2.2 million people who visited the Great Barrier of Reef in 2018. That is a lot of people in contact with the reef. Now, not everybody wears sunscreen or toxic sunscreen but it is likely that a lot of them do.

Especially because the reef is really vulnerable, every positive step that we can take counts!


But what is a reef toxic sunscreen?

The two most toxic ingredients frequently found in sunscreen are oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Sunscreen anyone?

The first chemical used in sunscreen that was found to have a negative effect on corals and marine life is oxybenzone.  Even one drop of oxybenzone in six Olympic-size swimming pool can cause damages. It deforms coral, causes coral bleaching and eventually death. There are other substances that are considered harmful, whether active ingredients of preservatives. Chemicals in sunscreens that can harm marine life include: Oxybenzone, Benzophenone-1, Benzophenone-8, OD-PABA, 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor, 3-Benzylidene camphor, nano-Titanium dioxide, nano-Zinc oxide. The most common and harmful ones are Oxybenzone and octinoxate.

The effects on coral are quite scary.  So much so, that the island country of Palau has already banned them and Hawaii has voted to ban them by 2021. The ban concern sunscreen containing  oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Now that raises the question about the Great Barrier Reef. As Australia is the custodian of this World Heritage area, every step counts.

First, start by checking out the ingredients in your sunscreen and don’t buy those with harmful chemicals.  If you are looking for a reef-friendly sunscreen, check out our website here.

Reef-safe sunscreen
Reef-safe sunscreen

Second, raise awareness and start talking about it.  Sign a petition to ensure that Australia bans those damaging chemicals in sunscreens.

Together, let’s give the reef a chance to recover for future generation to enjoy.