Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Esther Peters

Second Advisor

Joshua Feingold


The primary purpose of consumer-grade sunscreen is to protect skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays. This market has grown during the past 80 years, and environmental contamination from increasing amounts of sunscreen compounds have created concern. In particular, impacts on ocean ecosystems have inspired investigations and toxicological research on their effects on marine life. Unfortunately, such studies using marine flora and fauna are scarce, and the impact of chemical exposure to consumer sunscreens is neither adequately measured nor completely understood. In a pilot study by the Coral Restoration Foundation, in situ toxicity exposure to 10 different brands of sunscreens was performed on the Caribbean scleractinian staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis. Coral samples were ranked on tissue degradation following the sunscreen exposure, however no significant differences were found between exposed and control samples. Additional studies should be performed to better understand other possible sub-lethal effects. One such application is in the proper handling of corals during restoration; as other compelling evidence indicates, sunscreens have the potential to be toxic depending on concentration and exposure time, among other factors. This literature review revealed that sunscreens containing only non-nano zinc oxide or non-nano titanium dioxide as primary UV filters may best reduce stress to marine organisms and coral fragments in coral nurseries.