Hawaii Passes Bill to Ban Sun Care Products That Harm Coral

Satellite view of the Hawaii archipelago. Image credits Jacques Descloitres MODIS Land Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC  Wikimedia

Satellite view of the Hawaii archipelago. Image credits Jacques Descloitres MODIS Land Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC Wikimedia

The legislation prohibits the distribution of sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate that scientists have found contributes to coral bleaching when washed off in the ocean. He found that as much as 14,000 tons of sunscreen ends up in coral reefs each year.

As a result, state lawmakers in Hawaii passed a bill this week that would ban the sale of sunscreens containing those chemicals. If Ige signs the bill, Hawaii will become the first USA state to impose a law banning oxybenzone and octinoxate, to take effect in 2021, reports the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Doug Johnson, a dermatologist and spokesman for the Hawaii Dermatology Society, said, "A ban on these sunscreens in Hawaii - the state with the highest daily UV index warnings and very high rates of skin cancer and melanoma - would be a public health disaster". If signed by the governor, Senate Bill 2571 will ban the sale of over the counter sunscreen with oxybenzone and octinoxate.

He added, "Our island paradise, surrounded by coral reefs, is the ideal place to set the gold standard for the world to follow". As reported by The Star Advertiser, Bayer, the maker of Coppertone sunscreen, stated that there are limited active ingredients available that are as effective as oxybenzone in protecting skin from the sun.

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Opponents are sceptical of the science. Yamaki said the ban might discourage people from buying sunscreen products from local brick-and-mortar stores.

Along with other stressors (such as a little thing you might have heard of called global warming), scientific studies have shown that these ingredients have effects ranging from coral bleaching and stunting coral development to promoting viral infections within the reefs.

"It's a feel-good measure", said Democrat Sharon Har, one of four politicians who voted against the bill. The American Chemistry Council also filed public comment opposing the bill, citing concerns over the dangers of sun exposure.

Many manufacturers already sell "reef-friendly" sunscreens, and companies can deplete current inventory ahead of the ban in 2021, Downs said. The law may come into force on 1 January 2021.

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