Hawaii lawmakers have just passed a ban on the sale and distribution of sunscreen containing chemicals that are toxic to coral reefs.
The ban specifically targets oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals that are found in common sunscreens. According to a 2015 study, the ingredients cause coral DNA to mutate while its still in its larval stage, which prevents it from growing properly and makes it more susceptible to bleaching.
If Gov. David Ige (D) approves the legislation as expected, it would make Hawaii the first American state – and the first region in the world – to ban the ingredients.
“Amazingly, this is a first-in-the-world law,” said Sen. Mike Gabbard (D) told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in an e-mail. “So, Hawaii is definitely on the cutting edge by banning these dangerous chemicals in sunscreens.
“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. This will make a huge difference in protecting our coral reefs, marine life, and human health.”
Some experts oppose the ban because they believe it will lead to more people neglecting sunscreen altogether, which could lead to skin cancer. The ban, however, does not affect sunscreen that is brought into the state by tourists, nor does it apply to prescription sunscreens.
Additionally, non-toxic sunscreens are currently readily available for purchase in the state.