19. Prevent Toxins from Entering the Water - Sailors for the Sea

19. Prevent Toxins from Entering the Water


Boaters should be aware of what type of pollutants, including oil and fuel, detergents, sewage and toxic chemicals, could end up in the water and try to prevent or reduce the impact of those pollutants. Some of the most commonly used products on boats, such as sunscreen and cleaning solutions, contain chemicals that are dangerous to our waterways. Sunscreen can contain harmful ingredients, such as oxybenzone, which negatively impacts coral reefs and the marine environment. Coastal communities around the world, such as the USVI, Bonaire, Palau, Hawaii, Florida and parts of Mexico, have started to enact legislation to regulate chemicals in sunscreens.

Reducing the amount of detergent, soap or bleach entering your waterways also helps keep your waters free of unnecessary nutrients such as phosphate and nitrates. These same phosphates found in many boat soaps can be found in sewage, urban and agricultural runoff. Phosphates promote plant and algae growth that can be harmful, as they deplete oxygen in the water needed by other organisms.


  • Create safe refueling areas with fueling spill pads. Provide all motorboats with a bilge sponge and fueling spill pad in case of a fuel or oil spill.
  • Avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone, octinoxate and petrolatum (commonly known as mineral oil). Instead use products that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (in micro, not nanoparticle form), which are less toxic to the environment.
  • Request “water only washdowns” at the end of racing. Consider designating a cleaning area on a permeable surface (such as grass) that will absorb any runoff before it enters the water. You might also consider stocking the area with pre-mixed cleaning solutions that you know are safe for the environment.
  • Register your event and download the Clean Regattas Toolkit for more information!

If you would like to share how you’ve achieved this Best Practice, please share your solution below! If you’re looking for help on this topic, you can use this forum to ask your question to our community of Clean Regatta Organizers.

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