http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/ecology/swimmers-sunscreen-kills-coral/749Swimmers' Sunscreen Kills Coral
Written by Chris
Islands and beaches ringed by coral reefs draw thousands of tourists a year.
But it seems that the tourists attracted by the coral’s beauty and animal diversity may be inadvertently destroying the reefs.
The real culprit is something that every responsible individual takes to the ocean. Ingredients found in sunblock are causing the environmental problem. Four separate ingredients, paraben, cinnamate, benzophenone, and camphor, can wake up viruses that lie dormant inside the algae that helps keep coral alive in a symbiotic relationship.
The viruses then replicate and explode out of the algae, spreading further out in the coral community. This eventually kills off the algae, which provide the coral with food and make them colourful. Without the algae, the coral dies.
Researchers believe that this is a serious environmental issue, threatening up to 10% of the world’s coral population. Around 5,000 metric tons of sunscreen is washed off swimmers in the ocean every year. Even low doses of the ingredients can start the process. The study found that water around coral exposed to sunscreen had more than 15 times as many viruses as water around non-exposed coral.
The environmental problem is very serious. Coral reefs are an important part of the ocean’s ecology, providing an excellent habitat for many forms of life and promoting animal diversity. And sunscreen is not the only environmental issue facing coral reefs. According to marine virus and coral researcher Rebecca Vega Thurber: "Other [human-induced] factors such as coastal pollution, overfishing, and sedimentation all contribute to coral reef habitat degradation, and this work continues in that vein." Coral reefs are dying faster than the world’s rainforests.
There may soon be hope for those of you who don’t want skin cancer but also balk at the thought of harming such an important part of earth’s ecology. An Australian group is working on a new sunscreen that is based on the ultraviolet-blocking properties found within coral itself.
Info from National Geographic
http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s102327.htmCoral sunscreen finally sees the light
Tuesday, 22 February 2000
Acropora coral of the kind involved in the sunscreen research.
An Australian agreement today set the world's first natural marine sunscreen on the path to production.
The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and an Australian company, Sunscreen Technologies Pty Ltd (STPL), have reached agreement to develop the coral sunscreen, which is likely to hit the market in under five years.
Corals have developed natural sunscreens to cope with long-term exposure to the high-intensity ultraviolet radiation penetrating shallow reef waters and, in the 1980s, AIMS discovered a natural ultra-violet (UV) blocking compound in reef corals.
After developing a synthetic copy of the compound, AIMS patented the use of the molecule in all major world markets.
"We believe that within a very few years the coral sunscreen could displace the range of UV-B blockers now in use. The future market in global terms for the new compound and its formulations is estimated at several hundred million dollars each year", said AIMS executive Dr Peter Isdale.
The sunscreen, code-named 855, is structurally unlike compounds in current use. It has an It has demonstrated great efficiency in absorbing and dissipating UV radiation in the damaging UV-B region of the spectrum.
"We have copied and modified nature's own defensive product, evolved by marine animals over millions of years to ward off the effects of UV-B, and have come up with a stable and efficient sunscreen suitable for commercial use.
These materials can now be synthetically produced without the need to use the natural resources of the marine environment.
"All the completed tests indicate that the new sunscreen is not irritating to use as it has low allergenic activity," Dr Walt Dunlap said. AIMS scientists Drs Dunlap, Chalker, Bandaranayake and others began the process that led to the exciting find and product development.
Under the terms of the commercialisation deed, STPL will provide up to several million dollars in venture capital to secure a global industrial partner from the pharmaceutical industry to help complete the development and regulatory approval of the sunscreen's use and bring the compound into full-scale production.
Sunscreen 855 (as well as its manufacture and use) is a fully protected invention, following a lengthy patenting process. After 10 years of development, the final international patent was issued only last November.
AIMS has licensed the worldwide rights to use the patented sunscreen to STPL.
Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Resources, Senator Nick Minchin, says the royalties paid to AIMS by STPL and its sub-licencees will be used to boost Australian marine research for the benefit of all Australians.
obviously this sunscreen would only be considered kosher by the most liberal of vegans, and is not otherwise related to vegetarianism, but i just figured that here it would reach the most interested parties.