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All our ReefSafe formulas have been tested by Mote Marine Laboratory, and are Proven Non-Toxic to Corals and Sea Life! (Check Out Our Testing here)

Fact vs. Fiction

Independent Laboratory Testing

Biodegradability

Our products biodegrade on average in less than 90 days in seawater & freshwater (oceans, lakes & rivers). Note: There are three levels of biodegradability per the OECD[1] (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development):

  • Readily Biodegradable – biodegrades in 28 days
  • Inherently Biodegradable – biodegrades within 90 days
  • Ultimately Biodegradable – biodegrades over 90 days

Second criteria of biodegradability testing:

  • Water test source – Typically biodegradability studies are conducted using water with some level of sewage present. In view of the fact that consumers swim in oceans, lakes and rivers and not in sewage water [1][2], we opted to distinguish ourselves from the masses, by replacing the industry’s principle test standard of sewage water with water typical of recreational beaches.
  • Seawater source - Collected from the Pacific Ocean at a sandy beach surf zone & a second seawater water source was collected from the Columbia River at Rock Creek, Mosier, Oregon.
  • Freshwater source - Collected from the Columbia River at Rock Creek, Mosier, Oregon, which is a popular freshwater beach site typically used for recreation and other activities.
  • By opting to use water typical of recreational beaches, we obtain a more accurate timeline for biodegradation than if we had just used the principle test standard[1][2], which enhances the biodegradation process and as a result, misleads the consumer.

Non-toxic to Sealife

In addition to the biodegradation testing of our products, testing was performed on both seawater & freshwater microorganisms to determine the toxicity to the marine life. Testing confirmed that Reef Safe™ Suncare by Tropical Seas® formulas are both Non-Toxic to sea & fresh water microorganisms.

Bait Safe

Further testing was performed to authenticate Reef Safe Suncare by Tropical Seas’s claim that our lotions would not kill baitfish. The testing confirmed that if an entire 4 oz. bottle of Reef Safe SPF 45 spilled into a live well, there would be absolutely no harm to the fish. These results greatly exceed the concentrations anticipated in the environment from casual use and almost certainly that of any accidental spills of Reef Safe Suncare by Tropical Seas products.


Reef Safe Ingredients vs. Other Product Ingredients

Tell tale signs of a non-biodegradable product

Mass market Typically the second or third ingredient will be:

Petrolatum and/or Mineral oil – Some mass-market sun preparations contain petrolatum, most commonly known as mineral oil, which is derived from dewaxed paraffin-based crude oil,[5] through processing. Mineral oil has a low solubility rate in water[5][6] taking years to biodegrade, and is known to be harmful or fatal to aquatic life and waterfowl.[6] You may have noticed an oil slick that seems to float around you or other people when in the water, this is what happens with some mass-market brands because petroleum-based oils will come off your skin and normally float on the surface of the water.[6]

So Called Naturals: Ask your current suncare company to prove their “claim” of being “Eco-friendly”, “Biodegradable” and/or “Natural” with scientific test results. Most likely they don’t have any data since most companies do not scientifically test their products before marketing claims are created. After all there are no regulations on marketing claims, anyone can say their product does just about anything these days.

Titanium dioxide – a mineral used as an active sunscreen that does not biodegrade.[18]

We use between less than 0.5% Titanium Dioxide in a couple of our higher SPF products as a UVA sunscreen active, which helps protect your skin from UVA range. As a result, based upon laboratory findings, 99% of our Reef Safe suncare products break down in both sea and fresh waters on average in less than 90 days; the remaining 1% is the ash content of the lotion, which is considered non-biodegradable. This meets the OECD[1][2][3][19] definition of “biodegradable in sea & fresh water”. We justify the use of Titanium Dioxide only at minimal amounts to provide an SPF boost, as well as, provide additional UVA protection. (Competitors use anywhere from 6% - 25% of Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide combinations in their formulas)

Zinc oxide – a mineral used as an active sunscreen that does not biodegrade & is highly toxic to plants, invertebrates, and even vertebrate fish.[12]

Through similar processes both minerals are strip-mined and additionally treated or reacted with sulfuric acid. Finalizing the minerals for approval in USP (United States Pharmaceutical) Grade sunscreens, the minerals are processed and refined again prior to approved use in sunscreens or cosmetics.[11][17] (These minerals do not come straight from the ground into cosmetics).

According to the manufacturers and stated on MSDS, both minerals are considered ocean pollutants, in addition, zinc oxide is toxic to marine life. (See Reef Safe MSDS Facts Sheet below and our "Reef Info" for more info)

Nanoparticles of the above are being linked to Alzheimer’s disease and currently; a grant for over $574,000 has been issued to further research this claim. We do not use nanoparticles in any of our products, instead we use micronized, which we then homogenize before putting into our formulas.

Conclusions

There is nothing the matter with the use of sunscreens containing the above ingredients when used on land or as a daily wear; however, over 40% of North America watershed eventually drains into the Gulf of Mexico, almost all of the other 60% drains into either the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean, thus 90 – 95% of streams and rivers drain into the ocean and in time makes its way into our reef systems (or what is left of them).  We do not recommended using sunscreens with such high levels of Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide when swimming in our oceans, lakes & rivers; additionally we do not recommend the use on land either, since it eventually ends up in the environment that we are trying to protect.

So why are these ingredients considered to be natural?

We are unsure. The reason could be the simple fact that these ingredients are minerals, however being a mineral does not mean that they are natural nor does it mean they will biodegrade. Be aware of so called “naturals”, as they can be misleading to consumers and not so natural after all.

Marketing fluff is not in our vocabulary:

At Tropical Seas we care about your skin protection as well as our environment’s fragile ecosystems.  We scientifically back up our products marketing claims, and have all of our complete assays and test data, including references and protocols on file in our corporate offices. Additionally, we post our scientific test summaries on our web site for our customers benefit.

Once our products have passed The Food & Drug Administration’s standards, we then submit our formulas to an independent ecology laboratory for further testing.  By submitting our formulas for ecology testing, we learn not only their degree of biodegradability, but also their toxicity to sealife. The results from our biodegradable summary report prove that our products biodegrade in oceans, lakes and rivers AND are non-toxic to sealife.


MSDS Facts

Virtually every chemical made in its raw form will cause some type of harm to animals and humans at a significant dosage level, which is why we comply by all FDA (Florida Department of Agriculture) & INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) usage guidelines. It seems that as of late, a great deal of internet & media chatter has arose over the safety of using products that contain the chemicals Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3) and assorted Parabens; and instead choosing to use products with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. We decided to re-verify our information to better educate ourselves, as well as to better serve our customers.  We have spent countless hours going over our MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet), and below you will find our conclusions as to why we disagree with the self-proclaimed “naturals”.

Eco-toxicity Summary (the following ingredients are perceived to be the “good” chemicals)

According to the media, people should start using products that contain Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide; below we’ve listed the information concerning the above chemicals.

Zinc Oxide – The first warning on the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) is listed in a double outlined box that reads:

CAUTION! May cause eye irritation. Isolate area. 

HIGHLY TOXIC TO FISH AND/OR OTHER AQUATIC ORGANISMS

Under the Ecological section, the MSDS sheet states that, “Zinc Oxide material is highly toxic to aquatic organisms on an acute basis (LD50/EC50<0.1mg/L in the most sensitive species). Upon reading further, we discover that Zinc Oxide is not applicable for biodegradation, which means that this chemical does not biodegrade. Some manufacturers also list this product as being an “Ocean Pollutant”.[12][13][14][15][16]

Titanium Dioxide – The MSDS states that:

"Titanium Dioxide has been characterized by IRAC (Resistance Management for Sustainable Agriculture and Improved Public Health) as possibly a carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B) through inhalation (not ingestion). The State of California (CALPROP 65) considers titanium dioxide a carcinogen. Further Titanium Dioxide can cause irritation if not properly washed from the skin."

According to Ecological information, Titanium Dioxide has been known to have “harmful effects associated with suspended inert (motionless) solids in water”. Some manufacturers also list this product as being an “Ocean Pollutant” due to the whitening effect of the raw material, in addition to not being biodegradable.[17]

We use less than 0.5% Titanium Dioxide in a couple of our higher SPF products as a UVA sunscreen active, which helps protect your skin from UVA range. As a result, based upon laboratory findings, 99% of our Reef Safe suncare products break down in both sea and fresh waters on average in less than 90 days; the remaining 1% is the ash content of the lotion, which is considered non-biodegradable. This meets the OECD[1][2][3][19] definition of “biodegradable in sea & fresh water”. We justify the use of Titanium Dioxide only at minimal amounts to provide an SPF boost, as well as, provide additional UVA protection. (Competitors use anywhere from 6% - 25% of Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide combinations in their formulas)

Eco-toxicity Summary (the following ingredients are perceived to be the “bad” chemicals)

The media has chastised the use of the following chemicals as of late in the press, however the information that we have come across in our investigation, reveals a different truth.

Oxybenzone or Benzophenone-3:

The MSDS states that these chemicals are “Not a hazard under normal use conditions”

It does state that under “Greater than approved concentrations of use” that these chemicals can be a possible mild sensitizer or mild irritant to humans, however, in our products we use the FDA approved percentage and never exceed approved concentrations.

Aquatic Toxicity – No data is available as to any adverse effects this material has on the environment.

Biodegradability – Not determined by manufacturer in its raw form.

Esters of Parahydroxybenzoic Acid:

Since the 1930’s, the uses of parabens as a preservative in cosmetics, foods and pharmaceuticals have been widely utilized worldwide. In 1956, parabens were approved as food preservatives by the FDA and were limited to 0.1 percent. These preservatives are currently listed as being “GENERALLY RECOGNIZED AS SAFE” otherwise known as GRAS. Not only is this listing for the use in foods, but also for the use in cosmetics. (Note: Normal use levels qualify the above.)

Parabens are colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-volatile, non-toxic, chemically stable, soluble in most solutions, non-irritating, and non-sensitizing to the skin; in fact less than 1% of the population has any sensitivity to parabens. When multiple parabens are used in synergism with broad-spectrum preservatives, Esters of Parahydroxybenzoic Acid prove to be very effective. Parabens have also been proven to be effective as a preservative against over 23 Molds, Yeasts and Bacterias. Noted under hazards, the MSDS lists parabens as non-hazardous, as well as having caused no known ecological ill effects.

Additionally, we use food grade parabens in our product that are FDA approved for use not only in cosmetics, but also in the foods that we eat everyday.  Our position is that if these parabens are FDA approved in the use of our food, there is no reason that they are not safe to be used on our skin.

In conclusion, we’re wondering if the media bothered to fact check these stories before running them or whether they had other incentives for these biased allegations.

After much research and countless hours spent reading and re-reading the information, if given the choice between the perceived “good” chemicals (zinc & titanium) from the perceived “bad” chemicals (oxybenzone (benzophenone-3) and assorted parabens), we’d choose the so called “bad” chemicals every time.  We believe and can prove through our scientific testing that they are good for you and the environment.

For more detailed information on our testing, visit “Reef Safe Info” under About Us