The French environmental health agency has confirmed the negative impact of certain chemicals on corals, including several substances found in sunscreen. With territories spread across three tropical oceans, France is home to ten percent of the world’s corals, already threatened by climate change.
The French Food, Environment and Labor Agency (ANSES) has urged the French government to limit – or enforce limits on – runoff of chemicals that could harm coral reefs, which provide fifty percent hundred of the earth’s oxygen and are currently threatened. .
While studies have shown that climate change, which warms and acidifies ocean water, impacts corals, ANSES confirms in its report published Monday that the destruction of corals is also caused by pollution linked to the activity. human, and that at least 15 to 20 chemicals that end up untreated in the ocean increase coral degradation.
Saving what’s left of the coral reefs
“The expertise shows that half of the substances evaluated can present risks for coral reefs and contribute to their degradation,” indicates Anses about its study of 53 substances, warning that the lack of data means that their number is probably underestimated.
Twenty percent of coral reefs have been “irreversibly destroyed” in recent decades, the report says, and only a third are in satisfactory condition.
ANSES studied the impact of chemical substances, at the request of the government and the French Biodiversity Office, and used data available in the French departments of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Réunion and Mayotte.
The 53 substances studied include hydrocarbons, pesticides, metals, microplastics, pharmaceuticals and UV filters found in sunscreens and cosmetics.
Sunscreen harms corals
The report highlights the impact of sunscreen on corals, identifying three toxic chemicals: oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene.
ANSES had already asked the French state to restrict the use of octocrylene, which breaks down into benzophenone, an endocrine disruptor, which could prevent corals from reproducing.
France has said it would like to see such restrictions managed at the European level.
In its report published Monday, ANSES questions the claims of certain French and international sunscreen brands that their products respect the ocean and the environment.
“Although this study does not address the evaluation of these claims, experts question their origin in the face of the results of the literature analysis which shows a lack of specific data on the toxicity of the substances studied on corals” , writes the study.
“The presence of one of these substances (oxybenzone, octinoxate or octocrylene) appears incompatible with the possibility of supporting such allegations.”