Healthy Living: Sunscreen ban in Hawaii to protect coral reefs

Theresa Obrien
May 3, 2018

With the passage of SB 2571, Hawai'i becomes "the first state in the nation to ban the sale of all sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, chemicals that scientific research has found to be toxic to coral", the senate said. If the ban is signed by the governor of Hawaii, it would take effect in January of 2021.

It would also make Hawaii the first USA state to enact a legislation that protects the marine environment and ecosystem by prohibiting use of certain sunscreens. The products would still be available to those who have a prescription from a licensed health-care provider, the legislation states.

"Amazingly, this is a first-in-the-world law", Gabbard, who introduced the bill, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Coral reefs and sunshine keep tourists flocking to Hawaii but add sunscreen to that holiday mix and the result can be serious damage to the marine environment that makes the islands so attractive to visitors in the first place.

"Yes, we must protect the environment - it is our number one resource - but at the end of the day, studies have pointed to global warming, human contact, coastal development" as other significant threats to coral.

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Gabbard could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday. NPR writes that "even a small drop is enough to damage delicate corals". It also affects sea urchins and kills algae, a source of food for sea turtles, he said. It has also been shown to have hormone-mimicking effects on laboratory animals.

Oxybenzone is one of the most common chemicals used in chemical sunscreens. What has been scientifically proven is that exposure to UV radiation from the sun causes skin cancer.

The report says sunscreen products including Coppertone, Banana Boat, and Hawaiian Tropic would be prohibited as they contain these chemicals.

"It is quite hard to make good sunscreens that do not contain these chemicals based on the now approved sunscreen active ingredients list in the U.S.", Lim said. "The ingredients within our products are clearly listed in the active ingredients on the label so that consumers can make informed purchasing decisions". Unfortunately, a TON of common sunscreens contain oxybenzone and octinoxate.

She said the ban might discourage people from buying sunscreen products from local brick-and-mortar stores. EWG also recommends against use of sunscreens with oxybenzone. Those are active ingredients in a host of popular sunscreens, including top-rated brands.

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