Hawaii governor signs first-ever bill banning sunscreens that harm coral reefs


Only the sunscreens that use the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate are being banned which is harmful the state's biggest attractions - coral reefs. At that rate, coral bleaching contributed to the loss of about half of the world's reefs in 2014 and 2015. It also refers to previous research that estimates that between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion, which contains anywhere between 1 to 10 percent of oxybenzone, floats into coral reefs every year. The bill recognizes exceptions for people who are prescribed the sunscreens for medical needs.

But state Rep. Chris Lee, who represents the Honolulu suburbs of Kailua and Waimanalo, said the law is a necessary step to help Hawaii pass on its reefs, ocean, tourism industry and way of life to the next generation.

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While environmentalists and most residents of Hawaii applaud approval of the legislation, some merchants have anxious the move may hurt at the cash register as about 70% of all common sunscreens now on the market would fall under this ban. "This will make a huge difference in protecting our coral reefs, marine life, and human health".

Come 2021, Hawaii beachgoers will have to furnish a doctor's prescription for sunscreen labels containing oxybenzone and octinoxate in order to purchase them in the state.

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Environmentalists have taken the stance that without action now, the coral reefs of Hawaii will only suffer more unnecessary damage.

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. "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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Up to 70 percent of sunscreens sold on the US market contain oxybenzone and up to 8 percent contain octinoxate, which often appears on the labels as octyl methoxycinnamate, National Public Radio reported.