Article

Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology

, Volume 70, Issue 2, pp 265-288

First online:

Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands

  • C. A. DownsAffiliated withHaereticus Environmental Laboratory Email author 
  • , Esti Kramarsky-WinterAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv UniversityAvram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering and the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
  • , Roee SegalAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University
  • , John FauthAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Central Florida
  • , Sean KnutsonAffiliated withPacific Biosciences Research Center, University of Hawaii
  • , Omri BronsteinAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University
  • , Frederic R. CinerAffiliated withHaereticus Environmental Laboratory
  • , Rina JegerAffiliated withAvram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering and the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
  • , Yona LichtenfeldAffiliated withDepartment of Life Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
    • , Cheryl M. WoodleyAffiliated withHollings Marine Laboratory, U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric AdministrationCenter for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
    • , Paul PenningtonAffiliated withCenter for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
    • , Kelli CadenasAffiliated withNational Aquarium
    • , Ariel KushmaroAffiliated withAvram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering and the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
    • , Yossi LoyaAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University

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Abstract

Benzophenone-3 (BP-3; oxybenzone) is an ingredient in sunscreen lotions and personal-care products that protects against the damaging effects of ultraviolet light. Oxybenzone is an emerging contaminant of concern in marine environments—produced by swimmers and municipal, residential, and boat/ship wastewater discharges. We examined the effects of oxybenzone on the larval form (planula) of the coral Stylophora pistillata, as well as its toxicity in vitro to coral cells from this and six other coral species. Oxybenzone is a photo-toxicant; adverse effects are exacerbated in the light. Whether in darkness or light, oxybenzone transformed planulae from a motile state to a deformed, sessile condition. Planulae exhibited an increasing rate of coral bleaching in response to increasing concentrations of oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is a genotoxicant to corals, exhibiting a positive relationship between DNA-AP lesions and increasing oxybenzone concentrations. Oxybenzone is a skeletal endocrine disruptor; it induced ossification of the planula, encasing the entire planula in its own skeleton. The LC50 of planulae exposed to oxybenzone in the light for an 8- and 24-h exposure was 3.1 mg/L and 139 µg/L, respectively. The LC50s for oxybenzone in darkness for the same time points were 16.8 mg/L and 779 µg/L. Deformity EC20 levels (24 h) of planulae exposed to oxybenzone were 6.5 µg/L in the light and 10 µg/L in darkness. Coral cell LC50s (4 h, in the light) for 7 different coral species ranges from 8 to 340 µg/L, whereas LC20s (4 h, in the light) for the same species ranges from 0.062 to 8 µg/L. Coral reef contamination of oxybenzone in the U.S. Virgin Islands ranged from 75 µg/L to 1.4 mg/L, whereas Hawaiian sites were contaminated between 0.8 and 19.2 µg/L. Oxybenzone poses a hazard to coral reef conservation and threatens the resiliency of coral reefs to climate change.