FGCU researchers to see if sunscreen harms our water

Reporter: Andrea Guerrero Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:

One thing that everyone carries in their bag when they go to the beach is sunscreen. Since we were kids, we’ve been told to use sunscreen to protect our skin. But now, Florida Gulf Coast University researchers are discovering what happens to that sunscreen when you come in contact with water.

Whenever the sun is out, the sunblock comes out too.

Scherri Sheler is visiting from Indiana. “I always put it on before I leave the house and try to bring it with me, and if I plan to stay more than two to three hours, I definitely apply again.”

Keeping the sunscreen handy could be doing more harm than good. Nourabed Rabbo is a junior at FGCU and is part of the research team looking into the effects of sunscreen.

“We suffer a lot with red tide and algae, and there could be some links with UV protection and how it can actually protect algae growth and enhance,” Rabbo said.

So, for the past few months, these ladies from FGCU have been going from beach to beach talking to people, surveying and collecting water samples.

We’re going to use this information to try and estimate how much sunscreen is ending up in our water,” said Lauren Redfern, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.

That sunscreen could potentially harm our sea life, health, and economy in Southwest Florida. “The main message is trying to really safe sunscreen and we should as Floridians really be trying to protect our waters and our ecosystems here,” Redfern said.

Sheler says she’ll be listening to this message. “Now that I know that, it makes me want to look a little bit deeper into all-natural oils or sunscreen and I’ve been hearing about it for the last couple of years, but I haven’t really spent time researching my own products.”

Since the group at FCGU began this study, they have surveyed more than 200 people. Next, they will be heading up to Sanibel in January. They plan on releasing the results of their research in just a few months.

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