Marine scientists claim chemical in cosmetics threatens coral reef

By Michelle Yeomans contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cosmetics

Coral reef reproduction
A team of marine scientists from Israel and the US reckon a common UV absorber found in over 380 different product lines of soaps, cosmetics, and body fragrances is toxic to corals.

The study also featured scientists from Virginia, Florida, and the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration who claim the chemical benzophenone-2, commonly known as “BP-2” used in personal care product has the ability to kill juvenile corals at very low concentrations – parts per billion.

When released into the environment through discharges from municipal, residential, and boat/ship waste-water and sewage, the researchers say the substance has the ability to cause damage to coral DNA and in some cases even bleach them from normal pink, yellow, purple and brown colours to white – often killing them.

Published in the Ecotoxicology journal​, Dr. C.A. Downs, executive director of Haereticus Environmental Lab (HEL) who led the research stated that, “In the case of BP-2 pollution, there are a range of options that can be considered for reducing its impact to reefs – from working with manufacturers and innovating more environmentally sustainable products to educating consumers regarding product selection and product disposal​.”

According to Joseph DiNardo, a toxicologist who spent 37 years developing and safety-testing skin care products for several large cosmetic brands; “We need to know about the impact these chemicals have on our environment, and unfortunately, we don’t​.”

Regulation in the cosmetics industry

In recent years certain chemicals have come under the microscope and have been linked to increased rates of cancer as well as risks to the reproductive system.

Ingredients such as parabens - widely used as preservatives, phthalates - commonly used as a softner, and aluminium - used in certain deodorants, have brought about criticism from consumer lobby groups worried over scientific reports that suggest these substances could pose risks to human health.

However; EU regulatory bodies like the SCCS are consistingly launching reviews into substances like BP-2 and the safety of their concentration levels used in cosmetic products. 

Related topics: Regulation & Safety

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