Swimmers’ sunscreen kills coral

FEBRUARY 9, 2008óCommon ingredients in sunscreen activate dormant viruses in algae that cause the algae to explode and kill the coral beds they feed.

Additionally, when the algae explodes, it releases the virus into nearby coral beds.

The algae provides the coral with food energy through photosynthesis. Without the algae, the coral bleaches white and dies.

“The algae that live in the coral tissue and feed these animals explode or are just released by the tissue, thus leaving naked the skeleton of the coral,” study leader Roberto Danovaro of the Polytechnic University of Marche in Italy told National Geographic.

Swimmers leave 4,000 to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen in the world’s oceans worldwide, threatening about 10 percent of the world’s coral, the study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found.

Even low levels of sunscreen can trigger the virus, which can decimate a coral bed in as few as four days.

The study showed that seawater around the infected coral beds was 15 times more likely to contain the algae-killing virus.

Paraben, cinnamate, benzophenone and a camphor derivative are the common sunscreen ingredients found to activate the virus.

While signs point to banning sunscreen for oceangoers, Danovaro said that won’t be necessary. There are two things swimmers can do to reduce their impact on coral: One, choose a sunscreen that reflects rather than absorbs ultraviolet radiation; two, use an eco-friendly sunscreen.

Researchers in Australian are hard at work on a sunscreen based on a natural ultraviolet-blocking compound found in coral.

By Care2 editorial staff


William C
William Cabout a year ago

Thank you for caring.

W. C
W. Cabout a year ago

Terrible, thanks.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra5 years ago

Thank you Annie, for Sharing this!

Aud Nordby
Aud nordby5 years ago


Karen Friedman
karen Friedman5 years ago

This totally makes sense, chemicals are just that , chemicals in the air or soil, or water can pollute and destroy ecosystems .

LiLing O5 years ago

This is very disgustingly sick!

It is always the humans who are destroying this and that.
If one is so afraid of the UV rays,then just stay off that seas, and give these corals a chance to breathe and grow properly

Jim B.
Jim B.6 years ago

sunscreen, nothing like putting carcinogenic chemicals on your body to stop the formation of vitamin D., it's not even a vitamin, it's a steroid hormone that the sun converts lipids( fats) on your skin, then your body slowly absorbs them. just sad, more chemicals to kill the environment, when will humans ever learn?

Aranza R.
Aranza R6 years ago


Aranza R.
Aranza R6 years ago


Karen R.
Karen R6 years ago

thank you!