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Sunscreen Toxic For Marine Life

Update Date: Aug 20, 2014 06:29 PM EDT

Sunscreen protects our skin from harmful rays. However, it can also kill animals living in the ocean.

Scientists explain that sunscreen harms the environment when its ingredients wash off skin and run into the sea. Some of the ingredients in sunscreen like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles are extremely toxic for small marine animals.

Researchers Antonio Tovar-Sanchez and David Sánchez-Quiles explain that these ingredients can react with ultraviolet light from the sun and form new compounds like hydrogen peroxide, which is toxic for sea life.

Researchers explain that high amounts of hydrogen peroxide can kill phytoplankton, the microscopic algae and main food source for many small fish, shrimp and whales.

To understand the environmental impact of sunscreen, researchers collected water samples and tourism data from Majorca Island's Palmira beach. They noted that the Mediterranean island hosts 10,000 tourists a year. However, this is just a tiny portion of more than 200 million tourists who flock to the Mediterranean each year.

After analyzing their data, researchers found evidence that titanium dioxide, a common ingredient in sunscreen, is largely responsible for the summertime surge in hydrogen peroxide levels in coastal waters.

The findings are published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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