Use Only Reef Safe Sunscreens at Hamanasi

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Tags: #reefsafesunscreen#savethereef#sunscreen

Hamanasi will no longer sell and permit guests to use sunscreens that are not safe for the reef.  Pollution threatens coral reefs worldwide, from the Great Barrier Reef, to the Red Sea to the Belize Barrier Reef.  Much of the pollution comes directly from the sunscreen that divers, snorkelers and swimmers use to enjoy those very same reefs!  The chemicals in many sunscreens sicken and kill reefs and marine species, and we must stop bringing those chemicals to the reef we love.

The Belize Barrier Reef is 185 miles long and stretches the length of the country.

Why Does This Matter?

The Belize Barrier Reef is considered “The Jewel of Belize”, and we couldn’t agree more!  Not only is it the second largest barrier reef in the world, it is home to thousands of marine species.  This magical, gorgeous ecosystem also is our first line of defense against tropical storms, protecting our coastlines.  It is a vital source for our fishing industry.  Furthermore, it is a major draw of tourism, which employs 1 in 4 Belizeans.  Protecting our reef is essential!

What is Hamanasi Doing?

Launching on World Reef Day on 1 June 2019, Hamanasi will no longer sell sunscreens that are unsafe to reefs or keep available any unsafe sunscreens that guests leave behind.  We will offer for sale only reef safe sunscreens.  Over the summer of 2019, we will be educating our current and future guests and not allowing them to use unsafe sunscreens on property and during both inland and marine tours.  This will be strictly enforced when we reopen in September.  Additionally, we will be educating employees and guests about the importance of this issue.

“With each action we take, we choose to do harm or to do good,” said Hamanasi founder Dana Krauskopf.  “Switching to a reef safe sunscreen and telling others why is an easy step to help safeguard our marine ecosystems.”

Snorkeling the Belize Barrier Reef. Photo by Chris Liles.

Why Should You Care?

Chemicals from sunscreens wash off skin either while in the water or showering.  Furthermore, those absorbed by the body pass through urine and eventually wash out to sea. According to the United States Park Service’s “Protect Yourself, Protect the Reef”campaign, 6000+ tons of sunscreen enter coral reefs every year.  Another 2008 European study published by Environmental Health Perspectives concluded that sunscreen promotes viral infection in corals that can lead to bleaching. It estimated that up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen is deposited in the world’s oceans each year.

What Are the Bad Ingredients?

Four common sunscreen ingredients kill or bleach coral at extremely low concentrations — as low as one drop in 6.5 Olympic sized swimming pools!  Here are the worst offenders

  • Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3, BP-3) – Sunscreen ingredient that disrupts coral reproduction, causes coral bleaching, and damages coral DNA. Oxybenzone is found in over 3500 sunscreen products worldwide.
  • Butylparaben – Preservative ingredient shown to cause coral bleaching.
  • Octinoxate (Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate) – Sunscreen ingredient shown to cause coral bleaching.
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4MBC) – Sunscreen ingredient shown to cause coral bleaching. Allowed in Europe and Canada, not in USA or Japan.

According to the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, which researches effects of sunscreens and other personal care ingredients on coral reefs, other ecosystems and wildlife, below is a comprehensive list of environmental pollutants one should avoid in sunscreens:

  • Any form of microplastic sphere or beads.
  • Any nanoparticles like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.  Non nanoparticles are ok.
  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
  • Octocrylene
  • Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
  • Methylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Benzylparaben
  • Triclosan
Wear sun protective clothing and use a reef safe sunscreen.

What Can You Do

  • Buy and use only reef safe sunscreens
  • Look for ingredients on sunscreen labels. Don’t trust claims – they are unregulated!
  • Do NOT use sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, octinoxate, petrolatum (aka mineral oil), nanoparticle Titanium Dioxide or the other ingredients listed above.
  • Use a water resistant sunscreen, which will stay on longer.
  • Cover yourself with a hat and shirt. Companies like REI, Patagonia and Coolibar sell sun protective clothing.  When in the water, use a wetsuit or long sleeve rash guard.  If possible, only expose your face and neck, which will eliminate a lot of sunscreen while in the water.

List of Safe Sunscreens

Here is a list of sunscreens considered to be reef safe:

Even inland, sun protective clothing is preferable.

*Available in Hamanasi’s gift shop.  A staff favorite!

Now that you are well protected with the right sunscreen, go out and enjoy the reef and the rainforest!