College - Author 1

College of Science and Mathematics

Department - Author 1

Biological Sciences Department

Degree Name - Author 1

BS in Biological Sciences

College - Author 3

College of Science and Mathematics

Department - Author 3

Biological Sciences Department

Degree - Author 3

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Primary Advisor

Nikki Adams, College of Science and Mathematics, Biological Sciences Department


Organic compound-based “chemical” sunscreens dominate the commercial sunscreen market, but recent research has revealed the ingredients of these products are detrimental to the health of marine organisms. This revelation has led to increased popularity of mineral-based “physical” sunscreens, primarily containing zinc-oxide (ZnO), as environmentally safe alternatives. While they are marketed as environmentally safe, these claims are largely untested, and it is important to consider potential effects of ZnO-based sunscreens on the development of marine organisms. Though Zn is a necessary micronutrient in the ocean, excess Zn is released into marine environments from anthropogenic sources has negative effects on marine life. Many studies have examined effects of various chemical and physical sunscreens separately, but there are no published studies comparing them directly. In this study, we document effects of oxybenzone based “chemical” sunscreen versus zinc-oxide based “physical” sunscreen on fertilization of the purple sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. We demonstrate that exposure of gametes to chemical sunscreen has a significantly more detrimental effect on fertilization success than exposure to a physical sunscreen at low concentrations, and that the physical sunscreen is slightly more detrimental to ova at higher concentrations than the chemical sunscreen. We also observed decreases in fertilization success when both gametes were exposed to either sunscreen, indicating an additive effect. While both sunscreens appear harmful to the development of marine organisms, our results from exposing gametes to the lower, more environmentally relevant levels of sunscreens, suggest that physical sunscreen may be less harmful than chemical sunscreen to sea urchin gametes.