What is sunscreen and why do we use it?
The first sunscreen was invented in 1938 by an Austrian scientist named Franz Greiter. Sunscreen was created to protect the skin against ultraviolet radiation from the suns UV-A and UV-B rays, which is the the leading cause of skin cancer. Also known as SPF, Sun Protection Factor, which measures how well the sunscreen is at preventing UVB from damaging the skin. UV-A rays seep deep into the skin and increase reactive oxygen species that can damage the DNA. Meanwhile, UV-B rays only effects the outer most layer of the skin that increases direct photochemical damage to DNA, which mutates genes causing wrinkles and aging of skin.
Sunscreen combines multiple ingredients that help prevent sun’s ultraviolet radiation from penetrating the skin. There are two kinds of active ingredients in sunscreen, mineral and chemical filters. Chemical filters include: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.
Effects of Sunscreen on the Human Body
To explain the chart above,
In two European studies by Margaret Schlumpf of the University of Zurich in 2008 and 2010 she found sunscreen chemicals in mothers’ breastmilk, potentially exposing the fetus. In Schlumpf’s 2010 study she discovered that 85 percent of the milk samples she collected contained at least one sunscreen chemical.
In 2008 the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested a sample of more than 2,500 Americans and found that more than 96 percent of them contained traces of Oxybenzone. The researchers noticed that their participants had a significantly higher concentrations of Oxybenzone in their bodies during the summer which led them to concluded that the application of sunscreen was the cause.
But according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) not only is sunscreen a danager to humans it has also been reporter to be destroying our coral reefs.
The NOAA said that” this is the third time in history, the world is in the midst of a global coral bleaching event.” When scientists conducted studies in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands they discovered that oxybenzone was extremely harmful to the coral reefs. According to The Washington Post a very small amount of oxybenzone is needed to harm the coral in fact they said there only needs to be “the equivalent of a drop of water in a half-dozen Olympic-sized swimming pools” to cause sufficient harm. Lead researcher Craig Downs said that from approximately 14,000 tons of sunscreen ending up in the coral reef each year 80 percent of the coral reef has been destroyed!
What can we do to stop this?
Coral reef animals and plants have been a gold mine for finding new cures and medicine in the 21st century. So, the U.S. National Park Service strongly encourages us to use “reef-friendly” sunscreen that doesn’t contain oxybenzone to help preserve our coral reef.