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February 26, 2008
One of the joys of life to me is being in the undulating ocean, surrounded by all the beautiful shapes and colors that nature has to offer. Yes, I’m talking about coral reefs and their bountiful marine life. Whether I’m diving or snorkeling, I always end up radiating with awe as my body fluctuates with the tides, just like the fish around me.
Considering my respect for the reefs, you might imagine how I felt the day I was diving in Mexico and the dive master swam up to me and handed me a chunk of coral reef to balance my underwater weight. Let’s just say, I would have choked on the water if I hadn’t had a BC in my mouth. The chunk didn’t look too healthy, but even so, I had been taught to not even rub against the reef, let alone rip chunks out of it to replace weights that should have been in my weight belt.
That was my last diving trip and it left a lingering distaste in my mouth for the possibilities of overuse and underappreciation of the Earth’s treasures.
Tourism dollars have multiplied the number of uninformed and mismotivated guides, but they haven’t changed the fact that the coral reefs are a very sensitive ecosystem. Even a slight change in the water temperature (just a few degrees) can be very detrimental to the reefs. And now a new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives and explained online at National Geographic news has shown the harmful effects that many of our sunscreens are having on the reefs.
The good news is that you can avoid the problematic ingredients and help reduce your impact on the coral by using sunscreens that are paraben, cinnamate, benzophenone, and camphor-derivative free.
So spread the word and protect the coral, that way our children and children’s children will be able to see the coral reefs for themselves, rather than in old footage or photos.
—Gabrielle Harradine, Assistant Editor