Oxybenzone contamination from sunscreen pollution and its ecological threat to Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawaii, U.S.A. Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Hanauma Bay is a 101-acre bay created by the partial collapse of a volcanic cone and once supported a vibrant coral reef system. It is the most popular swimming area in the Hawaiian Islands and has been reported to have averaged between 2.8 and 3.5 million visitors a year between the 1980s and the 2010s, with visitors averaging between 3000-4000 a day and peaking around 10,000-13,000 per day. Concentrations of oxybenzone and other common UV filters were measured in subsurface water samples and in sands from the beach-shower areas in Hanauma Bay. Results demonstrate that beach showers also can be a source of sunscreen environmental contamination. Hydrodynamic modeling indicates that oxybenzone contamination within Hanauma Bay's waters could be retained between 14 and 50 h from a single release event period. Focusing on only oxybenzone, two different Hazard and Risk Assessment analyses were conducted to determine the danger of oxybenzone to Hanauma Bay's coral reef system. Results indicate that oxybenzone contamination poses a significant threat to the wildlife of Hanauma Bay. To recover Hanauma Bay's natural resources to a healthy condition and to satisfactorily conserve its coral reef and sea grass habitats, effective tourism management policies need to be implemented that mitigate the threat of sunscreen pollution.


  • Downs, CA
  • Bishop, Elizabeth
  • Diaz-Cruz, M Silvia
  • Haghshenas, S Abbas
  • Stien, Didier
  • Rodrigues, Alice MS
  • Woodley, Cheryl M
  • Sunyer-Caldú, Adrià
  • Doust, Shadan Nasseri
  • Espero, William
  • Ward, Gene
  • Farhangmehr, Aref
  • Tabatabaee Samimi, S Maryam
  • Risk, Michael John
  • Lebaron, Philippe
  • DiNardo, Joseph C

publication date

  • March 2022