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Is coral decline linked to sunscreen? Scientists say more study is needed

February 2, 2021

In recent years, there has been an increase in interest in the effect UV filters have had on coral reefs, especially organic UV filters used in sun protection products. Coral reefs are important for biodiversity and provide economic values, such as tourism and recreation. Significant decline in the diversity and abundance of coral in recent years has been attributed to climate change and longer-duration temperature events. The impact of organic UV filters on corals has also been scrutinized and some regulatory bodies have banned the sale of sunscreens containing certain organic UV filters.

In a recent paper in the journal of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (ET&C), Carys Mitchelmore and colleagues summarize the scientific literature assessing the environmental risk of organic UV filters on coral ecosystems. They concluded that while organic UV filters do occur in the environment, there is limited evidence to suggest their presence is causing significant harm to coral reefs. However, the scientists caution that based on the limited information and data currently available, it would be premature to conclude that organic UV filters do not adversely impact coral reefs. They identified critical data gaps and outline recommendations for future studies to assess the environmental risk of organic UV filters to coral reef ecosystems.

"In addition to more field and lab studies that take reef conditions and species into account, there is a need to develop a coral environment risk assessment framework,” said Mitchelmore. “Investigating and prioritizing the numerous stressors on corals would allow regulators, policymakers and scientists to optimize conservation and management activities."

Read more about the paper HERE