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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Today in junk science

The Washington Post today reported that a few drops of sunscreen can bleach the world's coral reefs.

From the Washington Post:
The sunscreen that snorkelers, beachgoers and children romping in the waves lather on for protection is killing coral and reefs around the globe. And a new study finds that a single drop in a small area is all it takes for the chemicals in the lotion to mount an attack.
The study, released Tuesday, was conducted in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Hawaii several years after a chance encounter between a group of researchers on one of those Caribbean beaches, Trunk Bay, and a vendor waiting for the day’s invasion of tourists. Just wait to see what they’d leave behind, he told the scientists – “a long oil slick.” His comment sparked the idea for the research.
Not only did the study determine that a tiny amount of sunscreen is all it takes to begin damaging the delicate corals — the equivalent of a drop of water in a half-dozen Olympic-sized swimming pools — it documented three different ways that the ingredient oxybenzone breaks the coral down, robbing it of life-giving nutrients and turning it ghostly white.
Yet beach crowds aren’t the only people who add to the demise of the coral reefs found just off shore. Athletes who slather sunscreen on before a run, mothers who coat their children before outdoor play and people trying to catch some rays in the park all come home and wash it off.
Cities such as Ocean City, Md., and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., have built sewer outfalls that jettison tainted wastewater away from public beaches, sending personal care products with a cocktail of chemicals into the ocean. On top of that, sewer overflows during heavy rains spew millions of tons of waste mixed with stormwater into rivers and streams. Like sunscreen lotions, products like birth-control pills contain chemicals that are endocrine disruptors and alter the way organism grow. Those are among the main suspects in an investigation into why male fish such as bass are developing female organs.
Research for the new study was conducted only on the two islands. But across the world each year, up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotions are discharged into coral reef, and much of it “contains between 1 and 10 percent oxybenzone,” the authors said. They estimate that places at least 10 percent of reefs at risk of high exposure, judging from how reefs are located in popular tourism areas.
If the coral reefs are so fragile that a few drops of a lotion somewhere sometime in the universe can destroy them, then why have them? But expect to spend trillions to protect the coral reefs from this imaginary problem as we foolishly ban sunscreen.


  1. The nabobs of negativity never do homework when coming up with new ways to terrify the proles; To the newest generations, World War II never happened (Except on screen in Hollywood) Here is the list of U.S. Maritime Ships (hundreds of fuel tankers among them) lost in the war:

  2. "Journalists" are not very bright people. Many of them are downright stupid. Take Dan Blather who still thinks the TANG memos are real. BTW, I worked on typewriters for IBM back in the early 70's and I can tell you the memos are fake. There are only two machines that could have made those memos back then and neither of them would have been at a National Guard facility. But back to reporters. The dumbest people entering college go into education. The second dumbest go into journalism.

  3. If it's THAT BAD, why/how do any reefs remain?

  4. You mean, it's sunscreen lotion, not rising ocean temperatures from global warming that's killing the coral reefs? I thought the science was settled! My head is just spinning from the news.

  5. Note that they didn't actually study the reefs themselves, only the water above them. Also, if any definitive work in this area is to be done, a similar reef in the same general area that is not near a heavily used beach should be used as a control. Ideally, when samples are taken, they should be randomized by a computer and tested without the prior knowledge of the investigator as to which reef they were taken from, the results then recorded back into the computer and then reported out by the computer, so as to eliminate investigator bias. But this will never happen. You never see the rigor required of medical pharmaceutical research applied when and where profits are to be made off of hysteria and politically charged grants. Funny thing is that even when the methodical rigor used in medical research is applied with utmost care, the results are often misleading and proven wrong in follow up studies, or when the results are applied to the real world. Even most well-done research turns out to be nothing but pure crap down the road a bit.