LETTER: Recommendation of Coral-Safe Sunscreen for Ironman Event
As the Ironman rapidly approaches, it is imperative to draw your attention to emerging research on the lethal effects of a common sunscreen ingredient, oxybenzone (benzophenone-3; BP-3), on our treasured coral reef ecosystems.
Last year, Hawai’i’s corals were devastated by a massive and unprecedented coral bleaching event, which resulted in the loss of 50% of our corals. In response, numerous state and local agencies have been working tirelessly to promote the recovery our corals. As the thousands of Ironman athletes, family, supporters, and staff join us on Hawai’i Island in the coming weeks, we respectfully ask that you support the efforts to promote the use of coral-safe sunscreens!
Research on Toxic Effects:
The chemical, oxybenzone (a.k.a. benzophenone-3), commonly used in many sunscreens, has been shown to increase the rate of coral bleaching, and to cause deformities in coral larvae, making them unable to swim, settle, or form new colonies.
Sunscreen chemicals wash off of users when they enter the ocean, particularly if sunscreen is applied just before getting in.
The Ironman event falls during an important coral larval settlement period in West Hawai’i, following late summer spawning events.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has detected oxybenzone in more than 96 percent of the American population. Oxybenzone can cause allergic skin reactions and may disrupt hormones.
Research continues on other potentially harmful chemicals including avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, octinoxate, methoxycinnamate, camphors, parabens, and nanoparticle form of certain minerals.
State and International Support:
Scientists at the International Coral Reef Symposium (June 2016) and the IUCN World Conservation Congress (September 2016) agreed on the negative impacts of oxybenzone and other sunscreen chemicals on corals, and recommended an elimination of use in areas with coral reefs.
The Hawai’i Department of Land & Natural Resources (DLNR) is asking all ocean- users to avoid sunscreens containing oxybenzone, as indicated by a press release on Sept. 2, 2016.
Hawai’i State Senator Will Espero is drafting legislation for a ban on oxybenzone and other harmful ingredients, with a target start date of 2018.
Recommended Coral-Safe (and Athlete-Safe) Sunscreens:
A list of recommended sunscreen products, available at the local retailers, is provided on the next page. Additional options can be found at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website with their 10th annual guide to sunscreens, listing many sunscreens which are oxybenzone-free and effective for sun protection. http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/best-sunscreens/best-beach-sport-sunscreens/.
Please note that certain brands labeled “Reef Safe” may include oxybenzone (e.g. “Tropical Seas- Reef Safe” sunscreen), so we encourage users to read labels. Preferred sunscreen options include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in their active ingredients, in addition to wearing protective clothing.
We truly appreciate your support of local coral reef conservation efforts, and hope you will support our efforts to minimize the use of oxybenzone -containing sunscreens and promote coral-safe options throughout the Ironman season. Feel free to contact us for further information, or with suggestions for how to pursue this effort further with your team.
List of recommended coral-safe (& athlete-safe) sunscreens available at local retailers.
Alba Botanica: Natural Mineral Protection Sunblock SPF 30 (Island Naturals, KTA, Walmart)
All Good: Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 33 or Unscented Sunstick SPF 30 (Island Naturals)
All Terrain: AquaSport/ Terrasport/ Kidsport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30 (Island Naturals)
Aveeno: Active Naturals, Natural Protection Lotion, SPF 50 (Walmart)
Aveeno: Active Naturals, Natural Protection Baby, Lotion or Stick, SPF 50 (Walmart)
Banana Boat: Kids Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 (KTA, Sack N Save, Safeway, Target, Walmart)
Banana Boat: Baby Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 (KTA, Sack N Save, Walmart)
Bare Republic: Natural Mineral Sunscreen Sport/Kids Spray, SPF 30 (Target)
Bare Republic: Natural Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, Sport, SPF 50 or Face, SPF 30 (Target)
Coola Suncare: Mineral Sunscreen Unscented, Baby, SPF 50 (Island Naturals)
Coola Suncare: Classic Sunscreen Unscented, Sport/Body/Face, SPF 30 (Island Naturals)
CVS: Baby Pure & Gentle Sunstick Sunscreen, SPF 60 (Long’s Drugs)
Goddess Garden: Natural Sunscreen Lotion: Sport/ Kids/ Baby, SPF 30 (Island Naturals)
Goddess Garden: Natural Sunscreen Continuous Spray: Sport/ Kids, SPF 30 (Island Naturals)
The Honest Company: Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50+ (Costco, Target)
The Honest Company: Mineral Sunscreen Spray or Stick, SPF 30 (Costco, Target)
MyChelle Dermaceuticals: Sun Shield Clear Stick, SPF 50 (Island Naturals)
MyChelle Dermaceuticals: Replenishing Solar Defense, SPF 30, or Sun Shield, SPF 28 (Island
Neutrogena: Pure & Free Liquid Sunscreen, SPF 50+ (Long’s Drugs)
Neutrogena: Pure & Free Baby Faces Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 45+ or Stick, SPF 60+ (Long’s
Drugs, Target, Walmart)
Promise Organic: Coconut Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30 (Long’s Drugs)
Stream2Sea: Mineral Sunscreen for Body/Sport/Face, SPF 30 (Big Island Divers, Kona Honu
Divers, Island Naturals, Kahalu’u Bay Education Center)
ThinkSport: Safe Sunscreen SPF 50 (Target.com)