Proposed ban on certain sunscreens aims to protect state's coral reefs

Proposed ban on certain sunscreens aims to protect state's coral reefs

The bill has been opposed by ABC Stores, the Hawaii Medical Association, Hawaii Food Industry Association, Chamber of Commerce Hawaii and Personal Care Products Council, as well as Bayer, which manufactures Coppertone sunscreens, the Star-Advertiser reported.

Lawmakers in the American state of Hawaii have passed a bill banning sunscreens that can harm coral reefs.

Oxybenzone and octinoxate cause mortality in developing coral; increase coral bleaching that indicates extreme stress, even at temperatures below 87.8 degrees Fahrenheit; and cause genetic damage to coral and other marine organisms. State Sen. Mike Gabbard, who introduced the bill, says it would also be "a first-in-the-world law".

The ban, once signed by Gov. David Ige, will make Hawaii the first state in the country to pass such kind of law and would go into effect on January 1, 2021. The chemicals can also induce neurological behavioural changes in fish and have possible impact on the many endangered species found in Hawaii's waters, including sea turtles. His 2015 peer-examined study found that oxybenzone threatened coral reefs. According to NPR, over 14,000 tons of sunscreen ends up being washed off from swimmers, making its way into coral reefs.

In a 2015 Environmental Pollution and Toxicology research, conducted by an worldwide science team, came to the conclusion that oxybenzone distorts coral larvae so that they become stuck in their shells, hindering their capacity to disseminate throughout the ocean. Chemicals from sunscreens can cause coral to bleach.

Critics of the proposed legislation, which was passed by the Senate unanimously, say that it will discourage people from wearing any sunscreen at all.

In an effort to protect Hawaii's reefs, Hawaiian Airlines last month began offering passengers free samples of natural sunscreens without those ingredients. The company "will continue to ensure we comply with all relevant regulations concerning oxybenzone and octinoxate".

Many sunscreen manufacturers already sell "reef-friendly" products.

Authorities in other marine park locations - such as the Virgin Islands, south Florida and destinations in Mexico - have already been taking measures to encourage visitors to use sunscreens made with biodegradable chemicals such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide.

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