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Sunscreen Chemical Can Kill Coral, Says New Research

Slapping on sunscreen before making a splash at the beach may prevent sunburn and protect against cancer, but it is also killing coral reefs around the world. That’s the conclusion of a University of Central Florida professor and a team of international scientists.

Many popular sunscreens contain a chemical compound called oxybenzone. It’s used to filter out UV rays. But new research says oxybenzone can seriously damage or kill coral. And it doesn’t take much, according to UCF professor John Fauth – damage can occur at a ratio that roughly equates to one drop of water in six Olympic-sized swimming pools. People often cover themselves in sunscreen before entering waters that also harbor coral, he says, and it happens repeatedly at beaches across the world.

Fauth, a diving enthusiast, says coral reefs support fisheries and tourism, and protect coastlines from storm surge. Other members of his team include international scientists from Israel and US scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as the National Aquarium in Baltimore, among others.

Fauth recommends trading in the sunscreen for big hats and protective clothing, when possible.

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Nicole Darden Creston

About Nicole Darden Creston

All Things Considered Host and Reporter

Nicole came to Central Florida to attend Rollins College and started working for Orlando’s ABC News Radio affiliate shortly after graduation. She joined WMFE in 2010. As a field reporter, news anchor and radio show host in the City Beautiful, she has covered everything from local arts to national elections, from ... Read Full Bio »