By Caitlyn Hayes, The Coastal Society Communications Intern 2016, Eckerd College Undergraduate Student studying Biology and Environmental Studies

Editors’ Note: The mention of certain products does not imply endorsement by TCS members or officers.

Many of you are marine and freshwater enthusiasts in some way, shape or form. Have you ever given thought to your personal care products (lotions, toothpaste, soap, sunscreen, etc.) and how they interact with the systems you love?

You would think that, like with any product you use, they are safe for you or your pets. Normally, our worst experience with these products would be getting them in our eyes, causing irritation. Concern for the impact of personal care products (PCPs), however, goes beyond worries of eye irritation as they enter waterways. PCP presence in waste water could pose problems for aquatic life in coastal ecosystems. Human health is also potentially at risk if these substances get into drinking water supplies or are absorbed into your body’s blood stream. But how would you know based on the labeling and lingo presented on the product? Despite these problems, unclear labels on these personal care products can be a barrier for knowing what to use and what is safe not only for the ocean, but also for you.

You hear all the time about pharmaceuticals being monitored and the public asked to not dispose of them down sinks; to avoid their presence in our drinking water since the filters at waste treatment plants cannot filter them out. Now microbeads in facial washes, toothpaste, and body scrubs are also being banned due to their effects on oceanic life. These microbeads increase the amount of microplastics in the ocean, as they are made of plastic fibers. When the ban was made on the microbeads, the companies had two years to remove them to find substitutes, and the stores to pull them off their shelves so consumers no longer could purchase these items. So what is to say about the effects of other personal care products on the market?

Photo Credit:

Imagine it is a beautiful day and you decide you want to go to the beach and bring your family. This is your favorite beach because not only is there fun to be had in the warm sand, but you love to snorkel and just a little ways off the beach is a beautiful little reef where you can explore. The moment you arrive you see the sun is intense today, so you will definitely need to apply a lot of sunscreen to avoid burning your skin. You pull out your favorite brand and apply as much to cover every exposed part of your body. Once smoothed out with no white residue left on your skin, you strap on your snorkel and run to the water. The water is beautiful today, and crystal clear, but you notice that there is a strange film on the surface of the water. The film is shiny, at certain angles has a metallic look, and in some cases looks like an oil floating in water. In the back of your mind you wonder, “What could that be?”

If you are me five years ago, you think it is salt and whale pee hanging out on the surface of the water. Have you ever wondered why sunscreen bottles tell you to reapply when you get out of the water? Like any product, it washes off in water. And as you are making your way to the reef to explore, that film is your sunscreen washing off your body. Have you ever thought about what chemicals are in your sunscreen?

You would think that as a product that has constant contact with the ocean and freshwater due to recreational fun, that it would be safe or tested to be safe for marine life. Unfortunately, while sunscreens require much analysis for skin safety on humans, there is little testing on effects to aquatic life. It is estimated that 4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen enters our oceans from washing off our body every year. There are some products that market themselves as eco-friendly and cause no harm to any species that has contact with them. Consumers should be aware though, that “no harm” can be true for any product based on the type of testing that is done, as well as the concentrations used to test. This can greatly skew the results showing the product is nontoxic or not harmful, if reasonable concentrations or test subjects are not chosen carefully.

Photo Credits: Stream2Sea®
Photo Credits: Stream2Sea®

Autumn Blum, an alumni from Eckerd College, is an active diver and coral reef enthusiast who decided that she wanted to find a better way to create personal care products by removing the harmful chemicals and replacing them with less or non-harmful chemicals. So she created Stream2Sea® the first performance-based sunscreen and bodycare line without using any ingredients known to be harmful. Oxybenzone, a common active ingredient in thousands of sunscreens and lotions, has been shown to be a mutagen, an endocrine disruptor, and a reproductive toxicant for both marine and terrestrial species, and also humans as it is absorbed into the blood stream. It has been found in human breast milk and urine as it lingers in body and blood stream. Not only is this chemical a toxicant to marine species, but you can also look for other active ingredients, such as, benzophenone-2, octinoxate and parabens on the ingredients label. The purpose of these chemicals are for dispersion on the skin, so Autumn replaced those harmful chemicals with non-nano titanium dioxide, non-nano TiO2. This chemical has been shown to not cause harm to other species. When exposed to concentrations higher than what is likely in recreational water supplies, her sunscreen products have resulted in little to no effects on the marine and freshwater fish, and corals that they have tested.

At the moment there is very little research regarding what is toxic and the exact effects the chemicals have on marine species. So there is no standard for what is considered to be safe for marine life. It is up to customers to make the decision to read the label for the active and inactive ingredients already known to cause harm to marine life and to your own bodies. Get rid of the harmful residue coming off your skin as you swim. Look beyond the marketing lingo and read the labels. Think about the ocean, and your own health!



By:  Sara Gordon

The Eckerd College chapter of the Coastal Society has been working to clean up coastal environments on and around our beautiful campus! Eckerd College is a small liberal arts college in St. Petersburg Florida sitting on the beautiful Gulf coast.eckerdcollegeaerial Eckerd College has a small but environmentally conscious student body. The coastal and marine environment proves to be a major draw for Eckerd College students. With over a mile of coastline on our campus alone, students are constantly interacting with the coastal environment. The campus waterfront, situated on Frenchman’s creek near the opening into Tampa Bay, allows students to make regular kayak trips, swimming breaks, and even sailboat rides straight from the school. Service and volunteer work within the community is a high priority for our students, and even part of our graduation requirements. 12784697_10156519038290104_1940983130_nThe Coastal Society is just one important group on campus that includes a variety of volunteer outreach opportunities. As the first undergraduate program to have a Coastal Society chapter, it provides a great resource and opportunity for students.

Our first beach cleanup of the year took place last semester and was set at Fort DeSoto, a Pinellas county park with some of the most beautiful beaches in the area. This natural area is the largest park in the county, with 1,136 acres of land comprised of 5 interconnected islands. Not only is this a popular area for tourists and locals looking to soak up the sun, but it is also a permanently protected area by the state. Even though the park has full time staff to manage the area, they still need volunteers to help keep the area clean. Eckerd’s chapter of TCS joined with the managers last semester to spend one Saturday cleaning up one of the most popular beaches. This area remains a high priority for managers due to it’s close proximity to a bird sanctuary, where numerous shore nesting species are protected.12498449_10156519038465104_1156681241_n

At the start of the Spring semester, we held our second cleanup event on our own campus. A large percentage of Eckerd College students live on campus all four years, making recruiting additional volunteers easy on such a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon. While our student body does it’s best to help keep our campus clean, garbage still gets strewn along our coastlines from incoming surf and thoughtless litterbugs.12767390_10156519038360104_562542797_n The volunteers set out to pick up debris along the beaches and in the mangroves on campus. By the end of a few hours, the volunteers had collected 6 full garbage bags and a full size-recycling bin of waste.

Both of these cleanups have not only helped benefit our community’s coastal areas, but also have helped spread the word about what The Coastal Society is and the kinds of things we are involved in. Finding like-minded individuals, who not only work in coastal communities, but also care about the environment that they work in can be extremely beneficial to all parties involved. Eckerd College’s chapter hopes to do more of these kinds of cleanups soon, and keep spreading the word! ?