Statement by Iain Davies, PhD, Senior Environmental Scientist The Personal Care Products Council, In Response to Study on Sunscreens and Coral Reefs

“Benzophenone-3 (BP-3; oxybenzone) is an important sunscreen ingredient found in many personal care products and is designed to protect people against the damaging effects of ultraviolet (UV) light. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), oxybenzone is one of the few available sunscreen ingredients that effectively protect skin from both UVA and UVB rays that can contribute to skin cancer and premature skin aging.

“A study published recently in Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology suggests that this common sunscreen ingredient could be harmful to coral and contributing to the decline of reefs around the world. This conclusion is based upon research conducted under laboratory conditions, which do not accurately reflect the complexity of the natural marine environment.

“Degradation of the world’s coral reefs is a serious concern. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coral Reef Conservation Program, coral reefs are threatened by an increasing array of impacts – primarily from global climate change, unsustainable fishing and other factors. There is no scientific evidence that under naturally-occurring conditions, sunscreen ingredients, which have been safely used around the world for decades, are contributing to this issue.

“Our greatest concern is that this report may result in fewer people wearing sunscreens. In fact, a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that approximately 43% of men and 27% of women never use sunscreen on their faces or other exposed skin. This is particularly concerning when we consider:

  • Every year, there are more than 63,000 new cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, resulting in nearly 9,000 deaths;
  • Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, with 5 million people treated each year;
  • More than 1 out of every 3 Americans reports getting sunburned each year. Sunburn is a clear sign of overexposure to the sun’s UV rays, a major cause of skin cancer – a single bad burn in childhood doubles the risk of developing melanoma later in life.

“We all can play an important role in the fight against skin cancer. In addition to FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Surgeon General, AAD, the Skin Cancer Foundation and health care professionals worldwide all emphasize that using sunscreens is a critical part of a safe sun regimen. The dangers of unprotected sun exposure are clear and universally recognized by public health professionals and dermatologists.

“As sunscreen manufacturers, our goal is to provide Americans with access to a wide variety of safe, effective and innovative sunscreens to use as an important part of an overall sun safe regimen.”