Earth Day 2022: A Sustainable and Biodiverse Future for Coral Reefs

By Emily Burns, Ph.D.
Environmental Scientist

Earth Day is a reminder of just how important coral reefs are in sustaining a wide array of plant, fish and invertebrate species, as well as supporting the livelihood of more than half a billion people through a variety of means, such as fisheries and ecotourism. Tropical coral reefs are the most ecologically diverse ecosystems in the marine environment. Despite only covering approximately 1% of the oceans, these habitats are critical to sustaining about 25% of all marine species. Coral reefs also protect adjacent shorelines from storms and host dozens of species that are key sources of medicines to treat a variety of diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.


More than 75% of coral reefs are considered to be under serious threat. The most prevalent cause of coral bleaching – which leads to coral weakening and death – is a significant and persistent rise in water temperatures, which can be attributed to the climate crisis. The climate crisis is also increasing ocean acidification, which further threatens reef survival by reducing the growth of corals and other animals.

There are also a number of local threats to coral reefs, including overfishing, invasive species, pollution from untreated sewage, agricultural runoff, unsustainable coastal development and physical damage from tourists’ feet or boat anchors. Proper management of such threats can have a significant positive impact on coral health, potentially increasing resiliency to the broader global threat of climate change.

Coral reef decline is a serious environmental, economic and societal issue that beauty and personal care products member companies take very seriously. While the use of specific sunscreen active ingredients has also been implicated as a local threat to corals, available scientific evidence indicates these ingredients are unlikely to be a threat. As a result of our industry’s extensive investigation, projects and partnerships have been established to lead the way in developing more robust science needed to understand the relationship between sunscreens and coral health. While we don’t have all of the answers, more research into the impacts of sunscreen active ingredients on coral is needed to allow the scientific community to form a consensus based on reliable studies.

We believe protecting the planet is a responsibility, not a choice. PCPC and our member companies are dedicated to improving the well-being of people and the planet, united in our commitment to operate responsibly and to ensure all cosmetic and personal care product ingredients are sustainable and do not adversely impact the environment. 

This Earth Day, I encourage you to explore’s Conservation and Biodiversity Campaign for ideas and steps you can take to help protect our coral reefs.

Statement by the Personal Care Products Council on the HBO Max Docuseries “Not So Pretty”



Lisa Powers,, (202) 297-1232
Stefanie Harrington,, (202) 615-6558
Jamie Kurke,, (202) 258-5285

Washington, D.C. — “Contrary to claims in the new HBO Max docuseries, “Not So Pretty,” cosmetics and personal care products companies must substantiate product and ingredient safety before they sell their products. Consumer and product safety are top priorities for our member companies, with careful and thorough scientific research serving as the foundation for everything we do.

“The films’ producers did not contact the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) to learn about the rigorous scientific processes our member companies use to ensure the safety of cosmetics and personal care products – products that enhance well-being and are trusted by consumers worldwide. Instead, this series is yet another example of one-sided and misleading information presented as fact. It misrepresents many of the ingredients the producers cite in the film, despite their thorough safety assessments and decades of safe use. The film refutes valid safety reviews that U.S. and worldwide government and authoritative bodies have conducted that determine safe levels of these ingredients.

“The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulates cosmetics and personal care products under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA). All cosmetics products and their ingredients are subject to the same safety requirement under the FD&C Act: they must be safe for consumers before they are sold. FPLA requires product labeling be truthful and not misleading. Companies have a legal responsibility to ensure product and ingredient safety; current law requires penalties for manufacturers that do not meet these standards. Personal care products companies provide consumers with more information than the law requires and continue to make more detailed information available about ingredients, sourcing, testing and manufacturing than ever before.

“PCPC and our member companies are proud of our longstanding commitment to work with a diverse group of stakeholders to modernize federal regulatory oversight for cosmetics and personal care products. As part of our commitment to FDA cosmetics reform, PCPC’s members created a set of principles to guide our advocacy. We believe that federal reform will give consumers continued confidence in the personal care products they buy – wherever they are sold across the country.

“The U.S. cosmetics industry invests millions of dollars in scientific research and development to support the safety and efficacy of approximately 2,000 new products introduced each year. Companies employ more than 7,000 professionals, including medical experts, chemists, toxicologists, microbiologists, dermatologists, epidemiologists, environmental scientists, etc. — to evaluate, substantiate and ensure product and ingredient safety. Each year, industry scientists publish numerous peer-reviewed papers about improvements and development of new safety methods.

“The foundation of scientific risk-based safety assessments is that every ingredient has a safe range and an unsafe range, be it water, a vitamin or a newly discovered compound. A critical part of an ingredient’s safety assessment is determining its safe range before using it in a product. A complete safety assessment accounts for who uses the product, how they use it and how often over a lifetime. Once in the marketplace, companies continue to monitor products as well as consumer experiences.

“It’s very disappointing that the filmmakers continue to perpetuate misinformation and false allegations, creating consumer confusion. Consumers should feel confident that industry safety experts as well as independent scientists worldwide thoroughly assess the ingredients used in cosmetics and remain committed to doing so. Families can continue to trust and enjoy these products and rest assured that our industry is devoted to safety, quality and innovation.”


For more information about cosmetics and personal care products, please visit

Founded in 1894, the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) is the voice and advocate for 600 member companies representing the $484 billion global cosmetics and personal care products industry. PCPC’s members represent approximately 90% of the U.S. beauty industry and are some of the most beloved and trusted brands in beauty and personal care today. As the manufacturers, distributors and suppliers of a diverse range of products millions of consumers rely on every day – from sunscreens, toothpaste and shampoo to moisturizer, makeup and fragrance – PCPC’s member companies are global leaders committed to product safety, quality and innovation.