On July 3rd, Hawaii became the first state in the union to enact a ban on certain sunscreens with ingredients which have been deemed harmful to coral reefs.
Senate Bill 2571 was passed by state lawmakers in early May, but was only recently signed into law by Hawaii Governor David Ige in July.
The bill states that the two chemicals used in sunscreens, oxybenzone and octinoxate, “have significant harmful impacts on Hawaii’s marine environment and residing ecosystems, including coral reefs that protect Hawaii’s shoreline,” and can “induce feminization in adult male fish.”
Prohibition is set to start on Jan. 1, 2021, however it does not apply to makeup or medically prescribed sunscreens which contain either of the two chemicals.
“This bill is a small first step worldwide to really caring about our corals and our reefs in a way that no one else anywhere in the world has done.” – David Ige said before signing the bill
In a statement issued about the bill, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) argues that by banning “at least 70 percent of the sunscreens on the market,” Hawaii is eliminating the access that consumers typically have to sunscreens which better prevent skin cancer.
“Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that excess sun exposure without effective sunscreen increases the risk of developing skin cancer in both adults and children. 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.” – CHPA
An environmental advocacy group known as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is now providing a list of sunscreen brands which do not use either of the two ingredients. Also, mineral-based sunscreens which use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are still allowed under the new law, notes Accuweather.
Several Democrats were vocally supportive of the bill, including Sen. Roz Baker, Rep. Chris Lee, and Sen. Mike Gabbard.
“Healthy reefs are a fundamental part of a larger ecosystem, and it is important to the health of our planet.” – Sen. Roz Baker
However, the state benefits the most from coral reefs because they act as tourist attractions, while also protecting the coastline. According to a popular travel website, Hawaii’s coral reefs “account for about 85 percent of coral reefs in the United States.”
Although the main cause of coral reef destruction is heavily debated, knowledge of the damage to coral reefs is nothing new. As CHPA notes in their statement, there are several causes of the destruction to coral reefs aside from sunscreen, including agricultural runoff, sewage, overfishing, and rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
“A global map produced on the basis of these calculations shows that all coral reefs are expected to stop their growth and start to disintegrate when atmosphere CO2 reaches 560 parts per million – double its pre-industrial level – which is expected by the end of the 21st-century.” – Dr. Jacob Silverman, Carnegie Institution of Science in Washington
However, many believe that this legislation will help cut back on pollution and slow down the damage that is being done to coral reefs.
“The half-life of oxybenzone is about two and a half years. So this is very do-able. If we start, the bill will help significantly cut back on the amount of pollution in areas.” – Lisa Bishop, president of Friends of Hanauma Bay
This article (Hawaii Bans Most Sunscreens in Effort to Save Dwindling Coral Reefs) was originally published by Phillip Schneider and may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author credit, and this copyright statement.