Reef Safe Sunscreen Guide [Visual]

It’s no secret that sunscreen is important to staying safe under the sun! Unfortunately, the sunscreen that protects us often means “danger” for our friends in the sea.

The National Park Service says 4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen is found annually in reef areas. High-traffic areas that host activities like snorkeling and diving are home to higher concentrations of sunscreen than less visited areas. You might be wondering, “Why does this matter?”

Many popular sunscreen ingredients like oxybenzone are known to bleach and kill coral reefs. In addition to harming reefs, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that sunscreen chemicals cause reproduction, growth and immune system complications for sea wildlife.

Bans on sunscreen with harmful ingredients are already in place in a few areas. However, these ingredients are still present in many popular brands. Unfortunately, grabbing “reef safe” labeled sunscreen doesn’t solve the problem either, as the use of the term “reef safe” isn’t regulated. Instead, you’ll need to know the difference between safe and harmful ingredients yourself.

Below, we dive into well-known toxic sunscreen ingredients and give tips for picking reef-friendly sunscreen.

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Environmental Impact of Tourism on Coastlines [Infographic]

Saving Our Beaches: Engineering Solutions for Tourists’ Impact

Everyone loves a beach vacation. In colder climates especially, more and more people are taking advantage of cheap airfares for a long weekend of sunbathing and swimming in the dead of winter. In fact, 12 of the top 15 destinations were in coastal countries.

In 1995, there were around 528 million international tourist arrivals. That number jumped to 1.138 billion in 2014, and emerging economies are experiencing faster tourism growth than advanced economies, making the increase in tourism an important part of many countries’ growth.

Local economies encourage increased tourism, as it helps to grow local wealth and jobs that pay well. Unfortunately, this relaxing trend is having some serious consequences on the environment that may outweigh the economic benefits.

Some of the downsides of increased tourism include resort development, boating, snorkeling, diving, and fishing, cruise ship presence, litter, coral reef damage, and even the creation of artificial beaches. These activities introduce toxins and other harmful substances, cause physical damage and sedimentation, and exploit local fish populations.

So what can be done to preserve the benefits of tourism for developing economies while balancing the need for environmental responsibility? Engineers have a few ideas. Eco-friendly roofing systems, designs that catch rainwater for later use, innovative wastewater management, and considering the landscape when constructing resorts and hotels can all help to reduce the impact tourists have on the local environment.

These innovative solutions are key for helping to ensure that tourists, locals, the local environment, and wildlife can all exist harmoniously now and in the future. Find out more about how serious the problems caused by coastal tourism have become and how engineers are working to solve them with this resource from Ohio University’s Master of Science in Civil Engineering Program.

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How to choose the best Sunscreen? [Video]

Sunscreen comes in many forms, each with its own impacts on your body and the environment. With so many options, how do you choose which sunscreen is best for you? To answer that question, Mary Poffenroth explains how sunscreens work and compares different application methods, SPFs, and active ingredients to help you make the best choice.

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