Hawaii Might Ban Over 3,500 Sunscreen Products To Protect Its Coral Reefs
In a historic move, Hawaii becomes the first ever state to pass a bill to ban sunscreen products containing chemicals harmful to the marine environment.
Lawmakers officially passed the legislation on Tuesday, May 1.
Hawaii Senate Bill 2571 prohibits the sale and distribution of sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate without a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider.
It is now waiting to be signed by Governor David Ige.
The Harmful Effects Of Sunscreen
As the bill states, both oxybenzone and octinoxate affect the marine environment by causing mortality in developing coral reefs, increasing coral bleaching even below 87.8 degrees Fahrenheit, and causing genetic damage to corals and other organisms.
One of the major factors to the push for the legislation's enactment is a study published in 2016 that revealed the adverse consequences of oxybenzone and octinoxate to the sea.
Jörg Wiedenmann, head of the Coral Reef Laboratory at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, acknowledges that chemicals in cosmetic products are not the only factor in the degradation of the marine environment.
However, its absence will help, especially considering Hawaii gets a constant stream of tourists all year round.
"Banning sunscreen will not solve other problems: for example, temperature anomalies, overfishing, coral predators and the big issue of coastal runoffs that pollute and destroy reefs," he tells Nature in 2017. "But if you have places with a high load of tourists going in, it is not unreasonable to stay cautious and say, 'Yes, there may be additive effects.'"
BBC notes that oxybenzone and octinoxate are used in more than 3,500 popular sunscreen products.
Hawaii Takes The Lead
In response to researchers' findings on the harmful effects of the two chemicals on the ocean, Hawaii legislators set about trying to keep them away from their shores. The push began in 2017, but it is finally nearing its completion.
Hawaii is set to be the first state in the United States to enact a law that bans sunscreen.
"Amazingly, this is a first-in-the-world law," state Senator Mike Gabbard, who introduced the bill, says in an email to Honolulu Star Advertiser. "So, Hawaii is definitely on the cutting edge by banning these dangerous chemicals in sunscreens. When you think about it, our island paradise, surrounded by coral reefs, is the perfect place to set the gold standard for the world to follow."
If signed by the governor, the bill will begin being enacted in 2021.