Sunscreen on coral reefs
Hawaii passed a bill to ban sunscreens with chemicals which have the potential to harm coral reefs.

To protect coral reefs and other marine life, Hawaii decided to pass a bill banning sunscreens with substances that are harmful to them. Chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate are deemed such, and the bill says it has “significant harmful impacts on Hawaii’s marine environment and ecosystems.”

Sunscreen washes off our bodies, therefore mixing into the water. Yearly, around 4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen enter reef areas which are highly concentrated in tourist spots. In 2015, researchers studied that only small contact with oxybenzone will cause corals to break down and turn pale, then die eventually.

Hawaii ban on sunscreen
Some sunscreens contain oxybenzone and octinoxate which are harmful to coral reefs. Just a small contact with reefs causes them to break down and lose their nutrients.

Oxybenzone and octinoxate were also listed as harmful chemicals by the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory along with other materials that have the potential to destroy marine life. The other chemicals on the list are also threats to the environment and wildlife.

Democratic senator Mike Goddard spearheaded the bill, which was passed this month. If it will be signed into a law, Hawaii will be the first state to implement the restriction. The bill says that these chemicals cause genetic damage and affect the way coral reefs adapt to climate change.

However, the proposal faced backlash because some people might get discouraged from using sunscreen. Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, expressed her worry that there are not enough sunscreens available. She added that people still have to use sunscreen to prevent skin cancer.

Senator Gabbard emphasized that the restriction will not be imposed until 2021 so residents and tourists have time to adjust and change the products they use. The basis for the bill is a study from the University of Central Florida. John Fauth, one of the institution’s professors said that wearing rashguards and scuba wetsuits is an alternative to using sunscreen. “If we could do it for a week at a time, people can certainly forgo it for a few hours to help protect these reefs for our children and their children to see,” he added.

Video by Fox Business