Substance used in some cosmetics may affect coral

Research published in the peer-reviewed journal Ecotoxicology by a team from the United States, Israel, and Singapore indicates that the chemical substance Benzophenone-2 (2,2′,4,4′-Tetrahydroxybenzophenone) may be contributing to the bleaching (killing) of ocean corals. BP-2 is used in after-shaves and eau de Cologne products in the United States and is also used in sunscreens in some other countries. The researchers state that it is often released as a pollutant through municipal and boat/ship wastewater discharges and landfill leachates, as well as through residential septic fields and unmanaged cesspits.

A list of consumer products containing BP-2 provided by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services can be found at http://hpd.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/search?queryx=.131-55-5&tbl=TblChemicals&prodcat=all. Consumer products in Canada and in other countries may have different formulations.

In the press release put out by the primary researcher, Dr. Craig Downs of the non-profit Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Clifford, Virginia, Joseph DiNardo, a former Vice President of Research & Development for Revlon-Almay Inc and a toxicologist who spent 37 years developing and safety-testing skincare products for several large cosmetic and pharmaceutical corporations, is quoted as stating “We have overpopulated our world not just with people, we have overpopulated our world with toxic substances—toxic substances we know nothing about. We need to know about the impact these chemicals have on our environment, and unfortunately, we don’t.” Dr. Michael Risk, a Professor Emeritus of coral reef biology and geology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, professed that, “This is more bad news for coral reefs, more evidence of the pervasive and pressing impacts of land-based sources of pollution. The results show that something humans use to protect their skin or toiletries can reach the sea from wastewater discharges, and shut down coral reproduction. In affected areas, the shutdown of larval (juvenile coral) survival means that there soon will be only a few ancient corals staggering on: and when some accident or storm or yacht takes them out, there will be no recovery.” The press release can be found at http://www.haereticus-lab.org/ecotox-sunscreen-chemical.html

Coldwater corals are found in ocean waters offshore of Canada. A 2009 report, Status Report on Coral and Sponge Conservation in Canada, provides details, though research on these organisms is sparse. The report can be found at http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Library/340259E.pdf. The testing referenced in this article was conducted in a laboratory on the larval form of a common tropical and sub-tropical coral organism and was not conducted on coldwater coral organisms.

An abstract (free) and the full paper (fee or subscription required) entitled Toxicological effects of the sunscreen UV filter, benzophenone-2, on planulae and in vitro cells of the coral, Stylophora pistillata, can be found at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10646-013-1161-y

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