Beach showers as sources of contamination for sunscreen pollution in marine protected areas and areas of intensive beach tourism in Hawaii, USA


In 2019, sands in nearby runoff streams from public beach showers were sampled on three islands in the State of Hawaii and tested for over 18 different petrochemical UV filters. Beach sands that are directly in the plume discharge of beach showers on three of the islands of Hawaii (Maui, Oahu, Hawai’i) were found to be contaminated with a wide array of petrochemical-based UV-filters that are found in sunscreens. Sands from beach showers across all three islands had a mean concentration of 5619 ng/g of oxybenzone with the highest concentration of 34,518 ng/g of oxybenzone at a beach shower in the Waikiki area of Honolulu. Octocrylene was detected at a majority of the beach shower locations, with a mean concentration of 296.3 ng/g across 13 sampling sites with the highest concentration of 1075 ng/g at the beach shower in Waikiki. Avobenzone, octinoxate, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor and benzophenone-2 were detected, as well as breakdown products of oxybenzone, including benzophenone-1, 2,2′-dihydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone, and 4-hydroxybenzophenone. Dioxybenzone (DHMB) presented the highest concentration in water (75.4 ng/mL), whereas octocrylene was detected in all water samples. Some of these same target analytes were detected in water samples on coral reefs that are adjacent to the beach showers. Risk assessments for both sand and water samples at a majority of the sampling sites had a Risk Quotient > 1, indicating that these chemicals could pose a serious threat to beach zones and coral reef habitats. There are almost a dozen mitigation options that could be employed to quickly reduce contaminant loads associated with discharges from these beach showers, like those currently being employed (post-study sampling and analysis) in the State of Hawaii, including banning the use of sunscreens using petrochemical-based UV filters or educating tourists before they arrive on the beach.

Authors: C A Downs, M Silvia Diaz-Cruz, William T White, Marc Rice, Laura Jim, Cindi Punihaole, Mendy Dant, Krishna Gautam, Cheryl M Woodley, Kahelelani O Walsh, Jenna Perry, Evelyn M Downs, Lisa Bishop, Achal Garg, Kelly King, Tamara Paltin, Ellen B McKinley, Axel I Beers, Sadasivam Anbumani, Jeff Bagshaw
; Full Source: Journal of hazardous materials 2022 Sep 15;438:129546. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2022.129546.