With a groundbreaking piece of legislature, the state of Hawaii became the first state in the U.S. to ban the sale of sunscreens that contain chemicals that harm the coral reef system.
Hawaiian Governor David Ige made history this week when he signed a law that bans the sale of sunscreens that contain chemicals that harm the coral reef system. The banned chemicals in sunscreen are oxybenzone and octinoxate. Research shows these chemicals are toxic to coral reefs.
Ironically, these ingredients are what many popular sunscreens claim are the best protectors against sun damage and skin cancer in humans, but more and more scientists are raising concerns about the effects on our bodies from these chemicals. Considered possible endocrine disruptors, possible reproductive blockers and more
Governor Ige said that signing the law is just a small step toward restoring Hawaii’s reefs, which he says have been deteriorating at rapid speeds. The bill he signed claims that oxybenzone and octinoxate cause mortal damage to developing coral, as well as cause genetic damage to other marine organisms.
Craig Downs is the executive director of Haereticus Environmental Laboratory and he said swimmers with sunscreen pollution from these chemicals damage the world’s oceans tremendously. When the law goes into effect in 2021, sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate will only be available in Hawaii with a prescription from a physician. Bringing sunscreens that contain those ingredients to Hawaii has not yet been banned, but advocates of safer and cleaner sunscreens hope that is not too far off.
So what are safe options? While oxybenzone and octinoxate ‘protect’ the skin from sun damage by chemically blocking UV rays, the Environmental Working Group believes that there are other, safer alternatives that act as physical barriers. David Andrews is a senior scientist with the EWG and says that they recommend avoiding chemical blocking sunscreens in favor of physical blockers that use non-nano particle zinc and titanium dioxide.