Saving our coral reefs – clean up your sunscreen

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Ocean pollution is a hot topic. We’ve all seen the heartbreaking images of marine life washed up on our shores wrapped in plastic bags or heard the horrifying stories of the sprawling patch of plastic detritus twice the size of France floating in the Pacific Ocean but the plight of our coral reefs is a lesser known environmental tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes.

Acres of precious coral reef, the ‘rainforest’ of the sea, home to thousands of species and crucial to both human and marine life, is under threat from chemicals that are found in certain sunscreens. According to the charity, Save Our Reefs, coral reefs are disappearing twice as fast as the rainforest, endangering our marine environment but also threatening food and medication sources and tourism jobs to a value of up to $172 billion a year, according to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

And the culprits of this destruction? The chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are found in over 3,500 of the world’s most popular sunscreens. A study published in 2015 by the journal, Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, found these chemicals have a range of devastating effects on coral, seeping into the reefs and bleaching entire areas. The bleaching occurs when an increase in sea temperatures kills the algae that grows inside coral, turning reefs white and eliminating nutrients that sustain other marine life. Worse still these chemicals are killing developing coral so there is no change the reefs can recover.

The study also found that these chemicals can cause genetic damage to both coral and other organisms, inducing feminisation in adult male fish and increasing reproductive diseases in fish and marine mammals. And there has been a link between the chemicals neurological behaviour in fish and the possible impact on endangered species such as sea turtles.

Up to 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen ends up in coral reefs each year including many containing these toxic chemicals. Now is the time to act.

Thankfully some organisations are…

In early May Hawaii became the first US state to pass a bill banning sunscreens that are harmful to coral reefs. This includes oxybezone and octinoxate. Authorities in Hawaii have indicated that high levels of these chemicals have been found at popular swimming beaches and reef areas and the Ahihi-Kīnau nature reserve on the island of Maui. And it is strongly hoped that Australia will follow suit in a bid to preserve its Great Barrier Reef.

I believe we can all make a small change to our regular shopping habits and make a big difference to our coral reefs. Our Cellular Protection Suncreens are 100% environmentally friendly and biodegradable, and contain no micro-beads, so are safe to all aquatic life and humans. We use Titanium Dioxide & Zinc Oxide, which act in a completely different way to chemical sunscreens and sit on top of the skin to reflect away the rays of the sun. We’ve also improved the formula to make the cream easier to apply, leaving no sticky residue or white marks, whilst still providing effective UVA and UVB sun protection for the whole family.

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This summer, we are taking action against the poisoning of our coral reefs by launching a toxic sunscreen amnesty. From 1st June, 2018, bring in any chemical sunscreen to one of our stores and receive a luxury sample size of our Cellular Protection SPF30. While stocks last. We are also proud to be partnering with marine charity, 4 Oceans to support their work to create cleaner oceans. Across the summer we will be retailing ‘The 4 Oceans Bracelet’ in each of our stores to drive awareness of this cause and worthy campaign.

Here’s how these bracelets are helping our oceans.

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