I had a nickname in high school amongst my surfer friends. It was Malibu Bert. The high-schooler logic that landed me this nick-name is a little hazy. after all it was my high school years but my 'educated guess' (get it... can i was in high school) is that when I would spend all day everyday in the sun out-&-about among the on the California coast line I would go from relatively pale to extra crispy every time the sun would poke it head out of those clouds. Needless to say, in those years sunblock became my best and most trusted friend.
That trust I soon discovered was misplaced. I owe a formal apology to my fishy sea friends and a fond farewell to coral reefs everywhere on my end of the Pacific.
It turns out that the sunscreen I would glob on by the gallon was an active poison to sea-life. It sounds a bit dramatic but they say you never know what you had until its gone. Well, what we had was a healthy ocean and unless we change our dependency on corporate chemical induced sunblock it will be gone before our grandchildren have their first surf session.
So sunblock, whats so bad about it? Some of the more Corporately mass marketed sunscreens on we use contain chemical filters. These generally use a mix of two to six of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Gibberish right? Well... ill explain: In a 2015 study, oxybenzone and octinoxate was noticed to be one of the causes of coral bleaching. Coral Bleaching? No the coral is not going blonde and getting highlights. Instead it is a term for stunting coral growth (Which has always been fairly rapid until mass market preservative loaded sunscreens hit the world market in the late 70's.) Coral Bleaching also affects the natural ecosystem the reef itself create for thousands of other sea creatures. Basically its making the fish homeless.
How big is this problem? Well studies have shown Between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion make their way into coral reef areas each year - this atrocity translates to a ruff decline between 43 and 69 percent between the late 1970s and 2008. The problem is real, its here (has been), and most importantly its not to late.
So first things first. Lets start with the companies making the sunscreen. Why can't the companies just make the product without these chemicals? They can, but they choose not to and here is why. Sunscreen in its natural form or as we like to call it "Mineral based". You can find out more about what makes up the mineral base at http://deliciousliving.com/natural-beauty/sunscreen-face-mineral-vs-chemical. Its natural, organic in most cases but like all fresh things it has an expiration date. Shelf life of any product with an expiration becomes a little tricky and very expensive. So the solution was reached to put preservatives in the mix so its could stay on those shelves until the sun burns out. Will these companies change there formula to a more expensive, expiration sensitive formula? On a small scale to fill the niche market for those who care, but they most likely won't cease production when they can rely on consumer ignorance to sell a cheap batch.
Will our leaders help in the matter? The answer is yes. But legislating is a long road and they are lobbing against an existing necessity. Still, Will Espero, a state senator in Hawaii, introduced a bill to ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone in the state, but it stalled at the end of the legislative session.
We will keep updates on the dwindling reef and reef based sea-life count but the solution lies with you. Yes you! The consumer. Instead of picking up your supermarket sunscreen and adding to the pollution pop on #Amazon or a search provider and buy from the little guy. The little guy who cares if we protect our waters and our world for future generations. You want to purchase a "Mineral Based" sunscreen and any organic sunblock provider will be more than happy to talk you through the preservative free process. not only the sea, but your skin will also thank you.