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Can an Ultra-Thin Sunscreen Save our Coral Reefs?

by kelly / April, 11 2018 01:30

Photo of a turtle swimming above Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Coral reefs are facing the threat of extinction. Increasing water temperatures and UV exposure are really damaging our reefs. For instance, last year experts declared large sections of the Great Barrier Reef dead. While all this is a bit depressing, help is on the way. Scientists in Australia came up with a sunscreen – different from what you’re probably thinking – to protect our reefs.

By the way, studies also show chemical sunscreens bleach coral reefs – that’s just one more reason why all our sunblocks are mineral only. Make sure to look for zinc and/or titanium only in a sunscreen’s “active ingredients” and be sure to choose a water resistant one.

Sunscreen from Down Under

Ok so it’s not the type of sunblock we humans use but a biodegradable screen that can be applied to the water’s surface.

As Dr. David Solomon, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Melbourne and one of the lead advisors of this sunscreen project explains:

“Our aim is to give the coral time to adjust to the changed conditions of high temperature and doses of UV light so that the coral forms different chemical structures that can survive.”

Ultra-Thin Coral Reef Sunscreen

This screen is an ultra-thin layer of calcium carbonate (the same material found in coral skeletons) that can be applied to the water’s surface above the reef to protect against sun exposure and rising temperatures.

This ultra-thin sunblock layer is one molecule thick, or 50,000 times thinner than a human hair. Wow, that’s super thin!

According to the scientists this layer can reflect up to 30% of UV light and keep temperatures just right for our reefs. The best part is that because this sunscreen layer is so thin it doesn’t bother or prevent the other fish or animals in the ocean from passing through the water. And even better, this sunscreen layer even reforms after the water settles!

Protecting the Great Barrier Reef with Sunscreen

The biggest downside is that this sunscreen can’t be sprayed everywhere. For reference the Great Barrier Reef is 130,000 miles long and right now the sunblock is only capable of covering tiny areas. So the goal is to spray this layer onto the reef’s most vulnerable sections.

Protecting Our Coral Reefs

We’re excited about this new discovery and the protection it provides our reefs. There’s nothing better than the benefit of sunscreen Smile.

And to do your own part, use mineral only sunscreens – ours for example – because studies show many of the UV filter chemicals in traditional sunscreens also damage coral reefs. Just check the “active ingredients” for zinc and/or titanium only and make sure it’s water resistant if you plan on swimming.

For even more information on what more you can do to protect our coral reefs check out our blog posts:

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