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Are Cosmetic Products Harming Coral Reefs?

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If you have ever had the chance to snorkel in the Caribbean or perhaps even off the coast of Australia, you have probably gotten to see what an amazing ecosystem exists just below the ocean’s surface. However, coral reefs are in danger and are being killed off at extreme rates due to:

  • Agricultural runoff containing pesticides and herbicides
  • Human waste and sewage
  • Chemical dumping and oil spills
  • Direct human damage from tourists (UVI, 2001)

While these issues are often the most heard about, a recent study suggests coral is actually more sensitive than we think. It turns out that the chemicals in certain sunscreens, lotions, and other cosmetic items, can actually kill coral. These chemicals can activate viruses in the coral and attack the algae population, which is vital to the coral’s survival (Downs, 2014).

Why should we care? Well, coral reefs provide a habitat for marine life, as well as coastal protection. In addition, coral reefs:

  • Provide tourism and recreation
  • Produce vital chemical compounds for medicinal purposes
  • Supports jobs, generating $100 million annually in the US, $29.8 billion worldwide Tourism 2011)

What Can We Do?  Unfortunately there is not a lot of regulation over lotions, cosmetics, and most other products we use on our bodies. So here are some pointers:

  • Avoid wearing lotions and cosmetics with toxins, like oxybenzone, octylmethyl cinnamate, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, and butylparaben
  • Do not touch or walk on coral when diving and snorkeling
  • Use less toxic chemicals on lawns. It all ends up in our water
  • Use a natural, mineral based sunscreen
  • Buy organic when possible

At Nurture My Body, all of our products are rated 0-1 by the EWG, meaning we don’t use harmful and dangerous chemicals in our products. Additionally, not only are our products safe for your skin, but they also are safe for the environment.

Stay Healthy!

The Nurture My Body Team


Downs, C. A. 2014. "Toxicological effects of the sunscreen UV filter, benzophenone-2, on planulae and in vitro cells of the coral, Stylophora pistillata."Ecotoxicology23: 175-191.

"Tourism and Recreation.". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 13 May 2011. Web. . <http://coralreef.noaa.gov/aboutcorals/values/tourismrecreation/>.

University of the Virgin Islands (UVI). 2001. Threats to Coral Reefs. UVI Web site.

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