Protecting your skin and saving baby corals doesn't have to be mutually exclusive

Beach season is officially in full swing, with Americans heading to the coast to swim, lounge, camp, party and generally cool off from the heat-drenched cities. And because we’ve been so well trained to avoid the harmful ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer, most beachgoers will be mindful to slather on a generous coating of sunscreen.

This is a sound and healthy practice for humans when they bake on the sands of California’s beaches, but it turns out it’s not so great for the health of the oceans when people covered in sunscreen take a cooling dip in the waves. A study conducted by an international team of scientists found that exposure to the two most common ingredients in sunscreen — oxybenzone, or BP-3, and octinoxate — is toxic to coral development in four ways. BP-3 in particular was correlated with bleaching, which is a sign of ill health, DNA damage and abnormal skeleton growth and deformities in baby corals (yes, there are baby corals).

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