Hawaii Lawmakers Pass Bill Banning Sunscreens That Are Harmful to Coral Reefs

On Tuesday, Hawaii lawmakers passed a bill banning the sale of sunscreens that containing chemicals that are believed to be detrimental to the state’s coral reefs and marine life.

As NPR says, “The chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are used in more than 3,500 of the world’s most popular sunscreen products, including Hawaiian Tropic, Coppertone and Banana Boat, would be prohibited.”

Prescription sunscreens containing these chemicals would still be available in Hawaii if the bill were to be signed into legislation. If signed by Gov. David Ige, it would make Hawaii the first place in the world to pass such a law. The legislation would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

“Amazingly, this is a first-in-the-world law,” state Sen. Mike Gabbard, who introduced the bill, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “So, Hawaii is definitely on the cutting edge by banning these dangerous chemicals in sunscreens.”

According to a 2015 study by researchers with the University of Central Florida:

“The researchers found that oxybenzone, a common UV-filtering compound, is in high concentrations in the waters around the more popular coral reefs in Hawaii, and the Caribbean. The chemical not only kills the coral, it causes DNA damage in adults and deforms the DNA in coral in the larval stage, making it unlikely they can develop properly. The highest concentrations of oxybenzone were found in reefs most popular with tourists.”

NPR states that at the time of that study, “researchers estimated about 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotions end up in coral reefs around the world each year.”

This bill is obviously directly connected to that issue, which also hurts the coral’s ability to deal with the drastic effects of climate change on them – like major coral bleaching events.

Major sunscreen manufacturers oppose the bill, claiming that it could cause people not to wear any sunscreen – which could increase cancer rates.

But many Hawaiian businesses are already taking their own steps to act in accordance with the potential legislation, creating their own standards. It has also spurred the growth of Hawaiian-made natural sunscreens to fill the possible sunscreen void that could be coming.

If signed into law, it could be the foundation for more places to take similar approaches.

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