With support from the ZMT, Simon Kammann, a high school student from Stuttgart, conducted a science project at home and at the MAREE on the impact of sunscreen on water organisms. In the ZMT laboratory he exposed hard and soft corals to water containing soluble and insoluble sunscreens and found a marked impairment of the corals. The journey to the north was worth the effort: Simon is the proud winner of the regional competition of “Youth Meets Science”.
Simon describes his project as follows:
“Sun protection is important.” By now everyone has internalized this advice. Each year, experts warn us against the harmful UV rays and advise us to apply lots of sunscreen, following the motto “more is better”.
However, these sunscreens can be harmful to the environment, if one goes into the water after applying them. “Sunscreen products may still use the label “water resistant”, even if only half of the specified UV protection is present after going into the water twice and swimming each time for twenty minutes. As a consequence, part of the sunscreen agent dissolves in water and is distributed widely by currents in the river, lake or ocean.
My research project focused on the issue whether the substances that were released in the water can cause harm. Using several biological tests – for example, toxicity tests with daphnia (water fleas), Lemna minor (small duckweed), Artemia (brine shrimp) and bioluminescence in luminescent bacteria – I was able to achieve results and to determine the toxicity of the ingredients. I also examined a possible toxic effect of several conventional sunscreens as compared to biological sunscreens.
My research also focused on the impact on soft and hard corals, which live mainly in shallow marine areas, and included coral bleaching, that is the visible bleaching of hard coral branches, which can lead to the subsequent death of the corals. Here I supplemented this investigation with further tests.”