Sunscreens damage corals; and this should bother India too

Source: Down to Earth

Context: Recently, Thailand banned the use of sunscreen to protect its corals from their adverse impacts. Palau and Hawaii have also imposed similar restrictions in the past.

This highlights the harmful impacts the chemicals in these creams have on the environment.

Why sunscreen is considered harmful for corals
  • It contains various ingredients like Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Butylparaben and others which negatively affects the growth of corals, their reproduction, causes deformities and ultimately leads to coral bleaching
  • Sunscreen remains in the water for a long time. When released into water, it forms a layer on the surface of corals and impacts zooxanthellae & polyps movement. This directly impacts their growth and photosynthesis process.
Impact of corals
  • A study by scientists from Polytechnic University in Ancona, Italy discovered that sunscreen that washes off swimmers in reef waters threatens approximately 10 percent of the world’s coral reefs.
  • This impact can increase further if tourism activities increase in these tropical reef areas.
Protection of Corals in India
  • Corals in India can be found in the Gulf of Kutch, Gulf of Mannar, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.
  • It has been accorded the highest level of legal protection under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
  • But still, there is a need to adopt various measures like sensitization programmes, sustainable tourism etc to reduce the overall impact of tourism on them.

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