Toxicological effects of two organic ultraviolet filters and a related commercial sunscreen product in adult corals

Tangtian He, Mirabelle Mei Po Tsui, Chih Jui Tan, Chui Ying Ma, Sam King Fung Yiu, Li Hsueh Wang, Te Hao Chen, Tung Yung Fan, Paul Kwan Sing Lam, Margaret Burkhardt Murphy

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


Corals are exposed to organic ultraviolet (UV) filters and other personal care product (PCP) ingredients in the environment, but the toxicities of organic UV filters and their related PCP to corals are not well understood. In this study, 7-day exposures were conducted to evaluate the toxicities and bioaccumulation of two organic UV filters, ethylhexylmethoxy-cinnamate (EHMC; octinoxate) and octocrylene (OC) (single- and combined-chemical tests), and diluted sunscreen wash-off water containing both active ingredients to the adult life stage of two hard coral species, Seriatopora caliendrum and Pocillopora damicornis. In the single-chemical tests, death (33.3%) and bleaching (83.3%) were only observed in the 1000 μg/L EHMC treatment of S. caliendrum. In the sunscreen product exposures, 5% sunscreen water (containing 422.34 ± 37.34 μg/L of EHMC and 33.50 ± 7.60 μg/L of OC at Day 0) caused high mortality in S. caliendrum (66.7–83.3%) and P. damicornis (33.3–50%), and tissue concentrations were up to 10 times greater than in the single-chemical exposures; co-exposure to EHMC and OC at similar levels to those in the sunscreen product resulted in bioaccumulation similar to the single-chemical tests. These results confirm the bioaccumulation potential of EHMC and OC and show that other ingredients in sunscreen products may increase the bioavailability of active ingredients to corals and exacerbate the toxicity of sunscreen products. Future studies on the toxicities of PCPs to aquatic organisms should not only focus on the toxicities of active ingredients. Other ingredients in sunscreen products increase the bioavailability of active ingredients and further exacerbate their toxicity to corals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)462-471
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019


  • Bioavailability
  • Organic ultraviolet filter
  • Personal care product
  • Risk assessment
  • Scleractinia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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