USA: Hawaii Bans Sunscreen that Damages Coral

The state of Hawaii takes a bold step in protecting its coral reefs.

Published 5 years ago, updated 4 years ago

As Reported by Soundings Magazine, September 2018.

Harmful Chemicals Found in Sunscreens

In this instance, the two primary suspects have names that most of us don’t know,

and if we saw them on a label, we wouldn’t bother trying to pronounce them.

First is oxybenzone, which is also known as benzophenone-3. It’s a bigger part of our lives than most of us realize, used in everything from nail polish to perfumes to hairspray.

Second is octinoxate, which is sometimes called octyl methoxycinnamate. It, too, shows up in a lot of places that most of us fail to notice, including lipstick, shampoo and hair coloring products.

The thing that’s most important for boaters to know about these chemical compounds is that they absorb the sun’s ultraviolet rays and then dissipate them as heat. It’s a quality that, over the years, has made them popular in the formulas for sunscreen that sits waiting to be squeezed from bottles and tubes in the cockpits of countless boats — and that, an increasing body of research shows, is damaging coral reefs in places where sunscreen-slathered people like to swim and snorkel.

Banning Harmful Chemicals

That harmful effect is why Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, just made Hawaii the first U.S. state to ban sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. He signed the legislation in July. The law gives store owners from Maui to Honolulu until January 1, 2021, to get the products off their shelves, even though the two chemicals have been approved for decades by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Studies have documented the negative impact of these chemicals on corals and other marine life,” the governor stated in a press release. “Our natural environment is fragile, and our own interaction with the earth can have lasting impacts. This new law is just one step toward protecting the health and resiliency of Hawaii’s coral reefs.”

State Sen. Mike Gabbard, the Democrat who introduced the legislation in Hawaii, said the ban was not just the first in the United States, but also the first of its kind in the world.

“Hawaii is definitely on the cutting edge by banning these dangerous chemicals in sunscreens,” Gabbard told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “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.”

The southern Caribbean island of Bonaire appears poised to go second, following Hawaii’s lead. The Bonaire Island Council even set the same enactment date, January 1, 2021, for its ban on oxybenzone and octinoxate.

“It is hoped that other touristic island nations with sensitive coral reefs will continue this effort,” the website reported. “Coral reefs around the world are dealing with many stressors, and this is one that can be eliminated.”…

By Kim Kavin

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  1. November 21, 2018 at 6:53 AM
    Data Entry says:

    November 2nd, 2018
    The Pacific archipelago of Palau has also passed a law this week to ban sunscreens containing any one of 10 chemicals, including oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are found in the majority of sunscreens sold in the U.S.
    Retailers have until 2020, when the law actually goes into effect, to sell their remaining inventory.
    Read news report at