Hawaii on the verge of banning sunscreens that kill coral

Posted May 04, 2018

Oxybenzone and octinoxate are destroying the ocean around the world, according to scientists whose research has shown that the chemicals break down coral by leaching it of nutrients and disrupt the development of fish and marine life, like sea urchins and algae.

Hawaii could soon be the first place in the world to ban the sale of sunscreens believed to be harmful to coral reefs. 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.

This is "a first step to help our reef and protect it from deterioration", said Hawaii state senator Donna Mercado Kim, a fellow Democrat who introduced the measure.

Hawaii is set to become the first state in the U.S. to ban the sale of sunscreen chemicals that are toxic to coral reefs and marine life.

"When you think about it, our island paradise, surrounded by coral reefs, is the ideal place to set the gold standard for the world to follow".

"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.

NPR states that at the time of that study, "researchers estimated about 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotions end up in coral reefs around the world each year".

Opponents are sceptical of the science. Lim and other critics say people would be discouraged from wearing sunscreen altogether and skin cancer cases would increase. The American Chemistry Council opposed the bill on the basis that sun exposure to humans is also a danger.

Despite opposition from health and retail industry representatives, the Senate voted unanimously in favor of the bill, while four members of the House - Representative Isaac Choy, Representative Sharon Har, Representative Sam Kong and Representative Bob McDermot - voted against it.

There are alternative sunscreens but they reportedly cost more. If that happens, the ban will go into effect in about three years (starting in 2021), and Hawaii will begin leading the charge to protect our earth from the damaging effects of common sunscreen chemicals. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.