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What do we know about sunscreen and the marine environment?

  • Sunscreen UV filters can be found in water and sediments.
  • UV filters are bio-accumulated in vertebrates and invertebrates.
  • Exposing marine organisms to UV filters, in controlled experiments, shows developmental arrest and an increase in sensitivity and mortality.

Sunscreen chemicals can cause defects in fish, dolphins and other sea life such as fertility issues, defects that can be passed on to their offspring, and harm to their immune systems. It can also impair growth in green algae, bleach coral and accumulate in the tissue of dolphins which can be transferred to their young.

When we swim or shower the sunscreen gets washed off and enters the waterways.

Chemicals in sunscreen that can be harmful to marine life are: oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, benzophenone-2, benzophenone-8, benzophenone-1, OD-PABA, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, 3-benzylidene camphor, nano-titanium dioxide, nano-zinc oxide. The evidence against these ingredients is largely based on laboratory studies and it may not reflect the actual conditions on the reefs.

What current action is being taken?

Hawaii is the first country to ban sunscreens containing benzophenone-3 and octyl methoxycinnamate. Florida and the Pacific Nation of Palau are also aiming to do this by 2021.

How can it be claimed to be “Marine Friendly” sunscreen?

Terms like “Reef Safe” or “Reef Friendly” are typically used to identify sunscreens that do not contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, two UV blocking chemicals. Studies have shown that these two ingredients can cause coral bleaching which poses a threat to marine life. However; just because a sunscreen does not contain these two harmful ingredients, it doesn’t necessarily make it Marine Friendly as it can still contain other ingredients that are harmful to fish and other marine life. Some sunscreens claim to be “Reef Safe,” which is different to Marine Friendly. Safe Sea is the only Marine Friendly sunscreen that has been certified by “Friend of the Sea”.

Who are “Friend of the Sea”?

Founded by Paolo Bray, Director of International Programs “Dolphin-Safe Project” and “Earth Island Institute,” Friend of the Sea is a major international certification for sustainable products and services. Over a thousand companies from more than 70 countries have their products certified by Friend of the Sea.

Friend of the Sea is the leading international sustainability certification program that is the only one of its kind, recognised by all accreditation bodies. Friend of the Sea is currently a project of the World Sustainability Organisation, an international trademark registered with humanitarian and environmental conservation missions. Friend of the Sea respects and protects the marine environment by awarding sustainable practices and promotes pilot projects related to UV cream and others. Yearly audits are carried out onsite by independent international certification bodies against the strict Friend of the Sea environmental sustainability and social accountability criteria.

The Friend of the Sea criteria for sustainable sunscreens require:

  • Releasing less than 20% of their chemicals into the water after 80 minutes.
  • The absence of chemicals that damage coral and marine life.
  • Evidence of testing from independent laboratories.

5) To summarise:

Sunscreens that minimised ingredients released to the marine environment may be defined as “Marine Friendly.” Safe Sea is formulated to release less than 20% of its ingredients into the water.. Studies have shown that when swimming or showering, 100% of regular, non water-resistant sunscreen would enter the water, 50% of water-resistant sunscreen would enter the water and less than 20% of Marine Friendly sunscreen would enter the water.

20-25% of consumers say they look for sunscreens that are Marine Friendly.

To shop the range, please see SafeSea Jellyfish Sting Protection Sunscreen.