Wednesday April 6, 2022


Sharing sunscreen with family and friends is part and parcel of any trip to the seaside. Now, researchers have discovered that the seagrass Posidonia oceanica also partakes, accumulating ultraviolet filters contained in such products and cosmetics. This discovery is raising concerns about the potential effect on important seagrass ecosystems, though the full ramifications remain unclear.

Researchers sampled the rhizomes of P. oceanica at three different sites on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca: at the port of the capital Palma, near the port of Alcudia, and at Ses Salines, a “pristine” site with fewer tourists than the others. In all samples, the researchers found varying mixtures and concentrations of the sunscreen components oxybenzone, avobenzone, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, benzophenone-4, and methyl parabens.

P. oceanica accumulated benzophenone-4 and methyl parabens at the highest levels, at 129 and 512 parts per billion dry weight, respectively. The rhizomes, a part of the stem, were between 10 and 22 years old, indicating to Silvia Díaz-Cruz, associate professor at the Spanish Council for Scientific Research in Barcelona and a co-author of the study, that these components persist in the environment and that continuous exposure enabled the concentrations to reach such levels.

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