Hawaii bans sale of sunscreens with coral-harming chemicals

Beachgoers are seen in Waikiki

Beachgoers are seen in Waikiki

Gov. David Ige will sign a bill on Tuesday that makes selling sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate illegal.

The bill, SB 2571, states that the chemicals, oxybenzone and octinoxate, "have significant harmful impacts on Hawaii's marine environment and residing ecosystems". Merchants carrying sunscreens will have until January of 2021 to cease the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. Prescription sunscreens are not included in the ban.

The bill is opposed by various companies and business associations and some dermatologists, who worry that the ban may discourage people from wearing sunscreen-a proven defense from exposure to UV radiation from the sun, which can cause skin cancer. Although not all parties are pleased with the move, Ige felt it was one way to help protect the coral reefs of his home state which are known around the world for their natural beauty. At that rate, coral bleaching contributed to the loss of about half of the world's reefs in 2014 and 2015.

Scientists have found the two substances can be toxic to coral reefs, which are a vital part of the ocean ecosystem and a popular draw for tourists. The prohibition takes effect in 2021.

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"So, Hawaii is definitely on the cutting edge by banning these risky chemicals in sunscreens", Gabbard said in an email to the newspaper.

"This irresponsible action will make it more hard for families to protect themselves against the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays", the Consumer Healthcare Products Association said in a statement.

The coral reefs surrounding Hawaii are hugely important to the USA state, aside from being home to marine life and drawing tourists for snorkelling and diving, a recent study found that coral reef provides protection for coastal towns from storm floods. "Banning oxybenzone and octinoxate - key ingredients in effective sunscreens on the market - will drastically and unnecessarily reduce the selection of safe and effective sunscreen products available to residents and visitors".

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