Scuba diver Pancho Mendiola and his wife, chemical engineer, Iliana Loza have been spending the last 7 years raising awareness of how chemicals in ordinary personal care products and cosmetics are damaging the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere, the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR).
The reef stretches nearly 700 miles from the northern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula down through the Honduran Bay Islands. Along the coast there are 11 kinds of marine and coastal wetlands, and 16 marine protected areas which are home to more than 3,000 species like tropical fish, coral reefs, turtles, manta rays, whale sharks and dolphins.
The Caribbean Sea’s features bring over 11 million tourists each year. The Mayan Rivera that used to be small fishing villages and an underdeveloped coastline is now home to luxury resorts, dive sites for scuba drivers and over 6,000 cenotes (sinkholes).
Personal care products are responsible for 3 million tons of waste dumping in the ocean globally each year. In Mexican beaches alone between 4,000 and 6,000 tons of sunscreen washes off tourists during their vacation. Regular sunscreen has chemicals and oils that are harmful to the environment, especially to coral reefs, as Mendiola and Loza’s research has found.
If no action is taken the reef may be dead in less than 20 years. It is necessary for tourists and their hotels to use ocean safe products. Nonetheless, natural derived products can be up to 3 times the cost which can make the transition harder.
To change this situation, Mendiola and Loza, along with other scuba divers and activists created the AHAL for Oceans biocosmetics line. They produce products with minimum environmental impact, their laboratory is powered with solar energy and use sustainable ingredients.
Additionally, Mendiola works in Hotel Esencia to spread awareness of the ecological issues at stake and promote the use of organic products. His long-term goal is the legal binning of sunscreen in the Mayan Rivera.
“Pancho and the local community are doing an incredible job fostering dialogue and action on an important issue which is barely discussed,” reads an article in Mission Blue referring to his mission.
“The Mayan Riviera Hope Spot is taking a global concern and activating their citizens to protect their marine environment. Reef safe sunblocks and other cosmetics are essential to protect marine life, as well as the user at hand.”
LatinAmerican Post | Maria Andrea Marquez