Lotion in the ocean: is your sunscreen killing the sea? Emine Saner, The Guardian

Saskia Seddon, York


This article highlights the dangers posed to the ocean by sunscreen. It takes a look at the harmful ingredients which can cause coral bleaching and how it occurs. It includes different views from scientists and researchers, one of which is that, while damage is caused, there are more important actions to take in the fight to protect marine ecology. 

I chose this article to study as it highlights the everyday impact we are having to our crucial ecosystems and how little we know about the dangers of commonly used products. 

Did this really happen?/who is telling the news story?

The media company this story was covered by is The Guardian – a reputable source which I have been reading from for years. It used quotes from scientific experts and their research to provide a well balanced and accurate report of the effects of sunscreen. It is written by Emine Saner who is a feature writer for The Guardian. The topics she covers are wide and varied and has written this particular story in a more factual and less opinionated way. 

Is it a news story?

The topic it covers is useful as while it has been affecting the ecosystems for years the adverse affects may not be well known by the general public. I would argue it is not a news story as it is provides research studies from a number of years and is more an informative article that will be read by the general public in the hope it will raise awareness of the dangers of common products and how to choose more eco-friendly products. 

Is the news story balanced?

The story is balanced and includes perspectives of scientists who have conducted intensive research on this subject. However, it does not push the point that changing sunscreen itself is the magic cure all for climate change and includes a different perspective by Prof. Terry Hughes suggesting ‘no scientific evidence that use of sunscreens by people has a harmful effect’ and that swapping sunscreens alone will not make a big difference.

Is the story presenting fact or opinion? Is it unbiased?

The story is presenting facts with the use of quotes and statistics by leading scientists in the field covered. It includes conflicting opinions between these scientists which may suggest that further investigation of this topic should still be carried out. I would be interested to include the perspective of the creators of sunscreens which contain harmful chemicals and find out more about their process of testing and how they ensure that these chemicals don’t have a harmful effect on the environment to give a full view on the subject. This could shift the article from informative to more argumentative with the manufacturers being more interested in protecting their product than investigating it. I would say that no one is treated unfairly in the article. Despite being on the topic of climate change, it avoids being accusatory and is instead balanced, providing information and tips on what can be done differently. 

What is the story trying to achieve?

I would say the story is trying to raise awareness using studies of the impact of chemicals that we use everyday and prove suggestions on what we should be avoiding and what we can use instead. The language used is not particularly emotive, focusing more on concrete evidence but through the use of quotes, I feel inspired to not simply carry on in the blissful idea that simply because something is beneficial to me, it must also be to the outward environment surrounding me. 

I had some awareness coming into this story about the impacts of such products like makeup on the environment but I didn’t know much about the widespread impacts of the chemicals that can be found within them.  I would say this story has increased my awareness and has given me the desire to conduct my proper research into the products I should or shouldn’t be using. I think it’s important for everyone to read about such topics so they can at the very least be aware of the choices they can make.

What do you think of this story? Do you agree with Saskia’s analysis? Have a go yourself with the three news stories of the week that she has chosen and use our question cards to help you.