This year for my summer vacation I headed to Croatia where my boyfriends family have a house so we can spend an extra few weeks there just relaxing and enjoying some of the most beautiful crystal clear waters in Europe. My family joined us this time, we spent 2 lovely weeks together with Adi's family learning about Croatia from the locals. My dad is always ready to find the next adventure, swim to an island, look for snakes and insects in the bushes or most importantly for him, snorkelling. Every new spot we go to he has his snorkel at the ready to see what life is hidden in these bays, often I go with him as I love that feeling of complete quiet under the waters and just watching a complete different world go by. This year however it was a very different experience.
The house is on an island just outside of Zadar, one of the larger cities in Croatia. It is very populated with around 100,000 people visiting this very little island during the summer. So you can imagine fishing, walking everywhere without thinking about what you are standing on and wearing lots and lots of sticky sunscreen is very high. Whilst snorkelling in what looked like a beautiful area, we saw around maybe 10 fish, maybe 1 or 2 nice looking pieces of coral and the odd hermit crab scurrying away. That was it. I cried fat tears and uncontrollable shaking as I realised that, what once was a beautiful marine life area, is now a grave yard for the odd fish to scavenge and a few sea enemies dotted around.
What type of a world do we live in where we care more about our enjoyment then the planet that we live in, who are we to ruin animals habitats because it isn't convenient for us to have it there or because we cant take 2 seconds to actually give a thought about what we are putting into their waters. I saw people drying out starfish (it was too late by the time I saw it) to what, hang in their houses? How do we explain to children that yes this was once a beautiful animal in our seas but you will probably never see one as they are all hanging on our walls. How are our children and their children meant to learn about fish and experience the beautiful things we have been able to experience because its all dead?
Its really time to start educating ourselves, it is everyones problem and its too late to now just shrug it off and leave it for someone else to fix. These problems are real and they will destroy our planet if we don't make changes now.
So on that note, here is what I have been learning about sunscreen and what we can look out for to make sure we are not the reason the coral is bleaching.
Oxybenzone and Octocrylene are the main ingredient culprits in sunscreen. Oxybenzone, for example, is toxic in four different ways: it causes damage to the DNA that may lead to cancer and developmental abnormalities, it is an endocrine disruptor (chemicals that interfere with our hormone system), it causes deformations in young corals, and finally, it leads to bleaching. Where as Octocrylene is found to be persistent and bioaccumulative (accumilation of pesticides or other chemicals in an organism) in wildlife, can cause liver issues and possibly cause cancer.
When going to local supermarkets and pharmacies I found it really really hard to find any sunscreens that didn't have Octocrylene in it. I tried multiple stores, even in multiple countries but didn't have a lot of luck. Here is a bottle of 'normal' sunscreen that I found in my cupboard, it will now only be used when i need sunscreen but will not be entering any body of water until it is empty and will not be purchased again, Octocrylene is often the second or third ingredient in sunscreens so super easy to spot.