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Sunscreen Chemical Threatens Coral Reefs

Published on: 01/27/2014
Region(s) of Study: U.S. States and Territories / Florida
Primary Contact(s): cheryl.woodley@noaa.gov

Researchers from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) and their partners have discovered that a sunscreen chemical commonly used in many soaps, cosmetics, and body fragrances is highly toxic to the larvae of the coral Stylophora pistillata. The team's data show that even very low concentrations of benzophenone-2 (BP-2) can quickly kill juvenile corals. BP-2 is an additive used in personal-care products since the 1960s to protect against the damaging effects of ultraviolet light.

The team also found that BP-2 can cause colorful corals to bleach and can potentially cause mutations in corals by damaging their DNA. BP-2 is not removed from most municipal wastewater treatment facilities, and for many islands in the Caribbean and the Indo-Pacific this discharge is often released in coastal waters - threatening near-shore coral reefs.

The study was published in the December 2013 issue of Ecotoxicology. Partners on the project included NCCOS; the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory; Tel Aviv University, Israel; Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel; Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; and the University of Central Florida.

For more information, contact Cheryl.Woodley@noaa.gov.

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