Hawaii to become first state to ban sunscreens to protect marine ecosystems

Hawaii to become first state to ban sunscreens to protect marine ecosystems

David Ige (D) on Tuesday signed into law a bill that bans the sale of sunscreens that contain chemicals harmful to coral reefs and other ocean life.

Hawaii will become the first state to restrict the sale and distribution of sunscreen containing chemicals that can damage the coral reefs after Governor David Ige signs legislation later this week.

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.

While it's been demonstrated to be safe for human use, the chemicals in question can actually kill young coral outright, while also contributing to bleaching effects on mature coral.

"The legislature further finds that environmental contamination of oxybenzone and octinoxate persists in Hawaii's coastal waters, as the contamination is constantly refreshed and renewed every day by swimmers and beachgoers", according to the bill. Prescription sunscreens are not included in the ban.

If the ban is passed, it would take effect in 2021.

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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. "We've got [a] limited amount of time". What has been scientifically proven is that exposure to UV radiation from the sun causes skin cancer.

Edgewell Personal Care, which makes Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen lotions, said it now makes products free of the two chemicals and "will continue to ensure we comply with all relevant regulations concerning oxybenzone and octinoxate".

Johnson & Johnson, which owns Neutrogena, agreed with the position taken by its trade organization, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

Critics say there aren't enough independent scientific studies supporting the assertion that the chemicals harm coral reefs.

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

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