Hawaii Banning Sunscreen Harmful to Coral Reefs

Christopher Davidson
May 3, 2018

The bill prohibits the sale of sunscreen containing two chemicals, oxybenzone and octinoxate, that its authors say "have significant harmful impacts on Hawaii's marine environment and residing ecosystems, including coral reefs".

Research studies have found that chemicals found in some popular sunscreen products are harmful to ocean ecosystems.

On Tuesday, State lawmakers approved a bill that bans skin-care companies from selling sunscreens that contain chemicals believed to harm coral reefs. The law would go in effect beginning January 1, 2021.

Similar legislation failed previous year after it pitted environmental scientists against businesses and trade groups that benefit from the $US2 billion market for sun care products in the US. The association said "the health, safety and welfare of millions of Hawaii residents and tourists has been severely compromised" by SB 2571, which aims to ban "at least 70 percent of the sunscreens on the market today, based on weak science blaming sunscreens for damage to coral reefs". "Hopefully, other jurisdictions will look at this legislation and follow suit".

"This is the first real chance that local reefs have to recover", said Craig Downs, a scientist whose 2015 peer-reviewed study found oxybenzone was a threat to coral reefs. According to a study published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, about 14,000 tons of sunscreen finds its way to coral reefs around the world. That affects coral, algae, sea urchins, algae eaters, all of them.

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"Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that excess sun exposure without effective sunscreen increases the risk of developing skin cancer in both adults and children", the association said in a statement.

"So, Hawaii is definitely on the cutting edge by banning these risky chemicals in sunscreens", Gabbard said in an email to the newspaper.

Sunscreen does a good job of protecting our skin, but it may not be so good for marine life.

Recently, Hawaiian Airlines began offering passengers free samples of sunscreens on trips to the islands made from natural ingredients and free of chemicals. "As always, we will continue to ensure we comply with all relevant regulations concerning oxybenzone and octinoxate".

"We have so many problems with coral bleaching, and there is already so much contamination", said Dr Yuanan Lu, a professor and director of the environmental health laboratory at the University of Hawaii, who applauded the passage.

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