Hawaii poised to ban sale of some sunscreens that harm coral

  • Sunscreen ingredients, including oxybenzone, are shown Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in San Jose, Calif. Many sunscreen makers could soon be forced to change their formulas or be banned from selling lotions in Hawaii. Hawaii state lawmakers on Tuesday passed a measure that would ban the local sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate by 2021 in an effort to protect coral reefs. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

HONOLULU — Many sunscreen makers could soon be forced to change their formulas or be banned from selling the lotions in Hawaii.

State lawmakers passed a measure this week that would ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate by 2021 in an effort to protect coral reefs. Scientists have found the two substances can be toxic to coral, which are a vital part of the ocean ecosystem and a popular draw for tourists.

Consumers would only be allowed to buy sunscreen with the chemicals if prescribed by a health care provider, though the measure itself doesn’t ban online purchases or tourists from bringing their own to Hawaii.

It would become the first state to enact a ban on the chemicals if Democratic Gov. David Ige signs the bill; he has not indicated whether he will.

Similar legislation failed last year, after it pitted environmental scientists against businesses and trade groups that benefit from the $2 billion market for sun care products in the U.S.

This is “a first step to help our reef and protect it from deterioration,” said Hawaii state senator Donna Mercado Kim, a fellow Democrat who introduced the measure. Although other factors contribute to reef degradation, “hopefully, other jurisdictions will look at this legislation and follow suit.”

“This is the first real chance that local reefs have to recover,” said Craig Downs, a scientist whose 2015 peer-reviewed study found oxybenzone was a threat to coral reefs. “Lots of things kill coral reefs, but we know oxybenzone prevents them from coming back.” It also affects sea urchins and kills algae, a source of food for sea turtles, he said.

He found as much as 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion ends up in coral reefs annually.

Opponents are skeptical of the science.

“What we’re really concerned with is that there aren’t very many independent studies out there that have gone for peer review,” said Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii. She said the ban might discourage people from buying sunscreen products from local brick-and-mortar stores. The American Chemistry Council also opposed the bill, citing concerns over the dangers of sun exposure.

“It’s a feel good measure,” said Democrat Sharon Har, one of four lawmakers who voted against the bill. “Yes, we must protect the environment — it is our number one resource — but at the end of the day, studies have pointed to global warming, human contact, coastal development” as other significant threats to coral.

Many manufacturers already sell “reef-friendly” sunscreens, and companies can deplete current inventory ahead of the ban in 2021, Downs said.

Edgewell Personal Care, which makes Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen lotions, said it makes products free of the two chemicals. The company “will continue to ensure we comply with all relevant regulations concerning oxybenzone and octinoxate.”

“We have so many problems with coral bleaching, and there is already so much contamination,” said Dr. Yuanan Lu, a professor and director of the environmental health laboratory at the University of Hawaii, who applauded the passage. “We have so many people who come to Hawaii, and some of the sunscreen ingredients can be toxic, harmful to marine systems.”

  1. Charlie Chimknee May 3, 2018 10:43 am Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    This article points out more than what meets the eye. The other side of the same coin which is not mentioned, and that is, while the Oxybenzone is harming the reefs…what is happening as well to the skin of the people wearing the sun block? Bad for coral? Bad for skin?

    Which means what is the reality of the Skin Protection Factor (SPF)? Some scientists say that the SPF ingredients stop the skin from reddening, but
    has no skin safety value otherwise as to skin cancer.

    People who use beaches daily will tell you, even if it is foggy cold areas, that over time the sun melts or deteriorates truck tires to nothing left, and same for plastic anything left on beaches.

    Further, our skin allows perspiration to come from our body and so what chemicals in the sun block are entering our skin from the outside in?

    Scientists now know that Glyphosate herbicide that is in our foods enters our bodies through our gut wall and goes into our blood stream and on into our entire bodies. Over 80% of women tested are showing positive for Glyphosate in both their own blood and their babies’ umbilical cords. This cancer related herbicide is in our women and children, well that means in the men too, same entry via the gut.

    The point is there has been a profitable but irresponsible use of chemical poisons being put into the human environment for several decades and it is catching up wth us and backfiring; and it while it has been for the benefit of corporate profits, it has not been equally beneficial for the people.

    When you pick an avocado from your tree and it has a bug sting or bad spot, do you throw the whole fruit away? No, you remove the bad part and enjoy the rest of the avocado. Pseudo scientists have led us to believe that we need to poison the food to make sure there are no bad spots or bites shared by insects; except when there’s no bad spots or bug bites in the food there’s modern poison on the food and the poison is entering our bodies, poisons that cause cancer. On the other hand we as humans have been able to live on earth from day 1 sharing a few bites and bruises on our food with nature and it has brought us no harm; but now the Agriculture poisons are bringing us harm and shortened sickly life spans.

    Many of us prefer a bad spot on the fresh food. And remember bugs and microbes that are killed by insecticides and pesticides, as much as 10% of them survive the poisoning and adapt or mutate to become resistant to the poison; and then the poison company has to make stronger poison to kill the new generation of bugs (and weeds) but that stronger poison will enter our bodies. This is the definition of Scientific Stupidity…well, worth it for for corporate profit.

    The same understanding of Sun Block lotions is the same understanding for all these environmental petro chemicals, like Oxybenzone and Glyphosate and Chlorpyrifos. It’s CHEMICALS Gone WILD…! ! !

    Throughout the world humans have used clothing primarily for sunblock, and the darker the clothes the safer our skins have been.

    And did you know that for some reason scientists are now saying morning sun and afternoon sun are more damaging for our skin than midday.

    What it boils down to if you are a light skinned person laying in the sun with surf trunks or a bikini is just not smart and worse for your skin if you use sun block. Wear a hat and light weight dark clothes for your safe “SPF”.



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