Hawaii Bans Popular Sunscreen Chemicals That Damage Coral Reefs

Pablo Tucker
July 7, 2018

Gov. David Ige signed SB 2571, Act 104-prohibiting the sale, offer of sale, and distribution of sunscreens that contain the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate in Hawai'i, beginning January 1, 2021.

Sunscreens containing minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide reflect the sun's rays away from skin and are a good alternative to chemicals that could be harmful to ocean reefs. They found four major toxic effects in developing coral, namely: increased susceptibility to bleaching, DNA damage, abnormal skeleton growth and gross deformities in baby coral.

Governor David Ige is expected to sign a bill into law later this week to restrict the sale and distribution of all sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate.

State Rep. Mike Gabbard (D) touted the law as a "first-in-the-world" measure when it passed the state legislature in May.

The objective of this law is to preserve marine ecosystems, including coral reefs. "We've got [a] limited amount of time".

"When you think about it, our island paradise, surrounded by coral reefs, is the flawless place to set the gold standard for the world to follow", he told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Edgewell Personal Care, which makes Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen lotions, said it now makes products free of the two chemicals and "will continue to ensure we comply with all relevant regulations concerning oxybenzone and octinoxate". "The ingredients within our products are clearly listed in the active ingredients on the label so that consumers can make informed purchasing decisions".

Critics say there aren't enough independent studies supporting the assertion that the chemicals harm coral reefs.

Gov. David Ige will sign a bill on Tuesday that makes selling sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate illegal. "Banning oxybenzone and octinoxate - key ingredients in effective sunscreens on the market - will drastically and unnecessarily reduce the selection of safe and effective sunscreen products available to residents and visitors".

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