UV filters in suncreens are essential to protect human skin from sun radiation. However, the effect these compounds have when they are introduced into the marine environment are not well studied.
Especially the effect of sunscreens on corals is debated among scientists and the public. Good data to make informed decisions for lawmakes, produces and consumers are lacking so far. Standardized tests to get ecotoxicological data are the norm for freshwater organisms but few exist for marine species and none for corals.
Our team around Peter Schupp is developing these tests in a cooperation with BASF. First tests with larvae and coral fragments have been developed and results were shown at the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) and the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC). We are working with other groups worldwide to coordinate the standardization of the developed experiments.
A standardized test system for corals can not only be used with UV filters, but a variety of other pollutants that are introduced to coral reefs. Results among different experiments will be comparable and hopefully basis for well informed decisions of consumers, corporations and lawmakers. Even though climate change is the biggest threat to coral reefs worldwide, pollution can have an impact as well and it is therefore important to discover potentially harmful compounds.