The NHRCP Bans Sunscreen from its Boats
As of June 8th, 2018, the NHRCP will be banning all chemical based sunscreens from our boats. In recent years, more and more data has been shown that chemicals such as oxybenzone that is contained in sunscreens can be harmful to coral reef health. Studies have shown that these chemicals can induce bleaching in coral fragments, activate latent viruses in zooxanthellae, deform coral larvae, and damage coral DNA. Other studies have also shown that these chemicals can disrupt the hormones and life stages of fish. Although these studies are not entirely conclusive (most were done in labs and not in the field) they are concerning, and in the face of uncertainty we prefer to follow the precautionary principle and do what we can to protect our local reefs.
But this does not mean that we want our students to get sunburned or be more susceptible to getting skin cancer. So here is a list of alternatives that you can use to keep yourself, and the reefs, safe:
- Non-Nano Mineral Sunscreens - These are made of zinc or titanium oxides, and have been shown to be just as effective in blocking out harmful UV rays, without posing a threat to marine life. Nano-mineral sunscreens should be avoided however as studies have shown their small particle size makes them biologically available, and they can have a higher toxicity then many of the chemicals in conventional sunscreens. We sell reef safe sunscreen at our shop, or you can purchase them before you come.
- Cover up – Wear a hat, rash guard, or T-shirt when in direct sun for extended periods of time, or during peak sunlight hours (10am-2pm). You can also check out the thin hoodies we have available through Conservation Diver. You can also check out products such as Sun Guard™ which you wash into your clothes and it improves their UV blocking properties.
- Stay in the Shade – During peak sunlight hours, try to stay under the canopies of the boat as much as possible, limit your time in the sun, set up your gear in the shade, and avoid the roof of the boat.
- Don’t forget your eyes – Wear 100% UV blocking sunglasses to ensure your eyes are protected, and avoid the cheap ones in Bangkok as many of them do not block UV rays.
So, although sunscreens are not one of the leading causes of coral reef decline globally, they have been indicated as a threat in high tourism areas. With Koh Tao now receiving over 1 million visitors per year, we feel it is important for us to do our best to always be part of the solution and not the problem. We thank you for your understanding and participation on this matter.