Impacts of Sunscreen on Coral Reefs Needs Urgent Attention, Say Scientists

More research is needed on the environmental impact of sunscreen on the world’s coral reefs, scientists at the University of York say.


The concerns over the number of cases of cancer as a result of overexposure to UV solar radiation, has led to extensive production and use of skin protection products. The chemical compounds used in these products, however, can enter the environment at the points of manufacture as well as through use by the consumer.

It is already understood that UV-filter compounds have toxic effects on marine organisms, but research in this area is limited and does not take into account certain variables, such as differences in environmental conditions.

In decline

Dr Brett Sallach, from the University of York’s Department of Environment and Geography, said: “Given the declining status of coral reef ecosystems and the many stressors they already face, it is important to identify the potential occurrence and toxicological risks associated with UV-filter exposure to reef ecosystems.

“Our research aimed to identify what research was out there and what gaps we had in our knowledge.  Importantly we needed to understand what areas could be considered priority for future attention in order to understand the impacts of these products, and hopefully prevent any further damage to the environment.

“Undoubtedly products that can help protect against the harmful effects of UV radiation on human health are hugely important, and therefore we need reliable and extensive evidence to suggest any changes or scaling back of these products.”

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