Coral reefs are subject to multiple stressors and are known to be at risk of extinction; one of these stressors is now recognized as pollution arising from personal care products such as sunscreen, shampoo, soap, conditioner and body lotion.
Presenting findings at the ICRS 2016, Dr. Craig Downs of Haereticus Environmental Laboratory and a member of the IPSO scientific working group on Personnel Care Product (PCP) pollution, reported that chemicals such as oxybenzone are eroding the health of reefs i the face of climate change with impacts ranging from sterility to death.
Earlier this year the International Program for the State of the Ocean (IPSO), the IUCN and World Parks Congress held a workshop on the threats posed to marine habitats and ecosystems from PCP pollution. This led to an agreement to undertake a peer review of the risk posed to the marine environment by PCPs and the development of a code of conduct for use by scientists and individuals to reduce their own impact while in the water, but which can also be adopted by tourism industries, government and others to begin tackling this problem.
The working group is now identifying the chemicals about which there is sufficient scientific evidence to determine that they are hazardous in the marine environment.
“Most of these chemicals are listed as ‘endocrine disruptors’, impacting reproductive and developmental health from corals to humans, and especially pose a threat to embryonic and juvenile development, but the good news is that all of these chemicals can be substituted by less harmful ingredients in personal care products”, said Dr. Craig Down, Executive Director of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory.
The Marine Safe campaign established by IPSO builds on the work of the scientists to introduce a program for certification of products without the identified hazardous chemicals, enabling consumers to make informed choices more easily. This will be operational within the next three months and will be backed up with a campaign to establish Marine Safe zones.
“Corals are currently being robbed of their ability to respond to climate change and other stressors and removing this threat will mark a significant improvement in opportunity for coral reef recovery. The energy and enthusiasm to tackle this from stakeholders attending is incredibly encouraging. If we can start to make steps to remove these chemicals from the marine environment it will to make an immediate and lasting difference”, said Mirella von Lindenfels, Director of Marine Safe.