Defending the ocean for all life on Earth

Marine pollutants

Below are lists of ingredients that we currently understand have a harming effect on the ocean. Wherever possible, we have indicated alternative names for an ingredient as these may also appear on a label.

You can read a summary of the scientific literature covering these ingredients and the field of study more broadly here, along with the relevant abstracts and citations.

Too little is understood about the effects of different ingredients on the marine environment and, without more testing and more diligence by product manufacturers, we cannot be certain that a product does no harm.

For now, we do know that the removal of some chemicals would be positively beneficial to the ocean and the IPSO scientific working group on pollution will be identifying the nine or ten ingredients that should not be released into the marine environment.

We are beginning by calling for the removal of oxybenzone from personal care products. The latest report on oxybenzone was published in October 2015, and tells us that:

  • Oxybenzone is found in more than 3,500 sunscreen products worldwide, as well as lipstick, mascara and shampoo – click here for a list of the type of products that contain it. Oxybenzone acts as a barrier to UV light and is entirely replaceable by other, less marine-toxic ingredients.
  • Oxybenzone has a range of highly damaging effects on coral, from gross deformity to death, and is shown to be an endocrine disrupter.
  • Baby coral exposed to field-realistic concentrations of oxybenzone encased themselves in their own skeleton and died.
  • One drop of oxybenzone in the equivalent of six-and-a-half Olympic-size swimming pools’ worth of water is sufficient to damage coral.
  • Levels of oxybenzone in seawater around coral reefs in Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands were found to be 12 times higher than the concentration that damages baby coral.
  • There are a number of concerns about the effect of oxybenzone on human health. It is on the EU’s ‘Substitute It Now’ list of substances that should be replaced and meets the criteria for ‘Substances of Very High Concern’.

 UV filters

(found in sunscreen lotions, make up and hair products)

  • Benzophenone-2
  • Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3)
  • 3-benzylidene camphor
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
  • 2-ethyl-hexyl-4-trimethoxycinnamate (Octinoxate, Uvinul MC80)
  • Glyceril octanoate dimethoxylcinnamate
  • DEA methoxycinnamate
  • Ethyl-4-aminobenzoate
  • Gyceril PABA
  • Camphor benzalkonium methosulfate

The following ingredients are of concern in the marine environment and need more testing:

  • Cinoxate
  • Amiloxate
  • Bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine


  • Methylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben
  • Sodium methylparaben
  • Sodium propylparaben
  • Thimersal
  • Triclosan
  • Triclocarban
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Chloroxylenol
  • Potassium sorbate
  • Glutaral
  • Formalin
  • Climbazole
  • Methyldibromo glutaronitrile