Hawaii bans sunscreens with two coral-harming chemicals

July 5, 2018 | Environment
Sunscreens: skin care product with oxybenzone and octinoxate will not be allowed in Hawaii | Photo: Shutterstock

Hawaii has officially banned reef-harming sunscreens from the archipelago.

The sale, offer of sale, and distribution of sunscreens that contain the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate will not be allowed in Hawaii from January 1, 2021.

Governor David Ige signed the bill that makes the State of Hawaii the first region in the world to prohibit sunscreens with toxic impacts in marine ecosystems, for example, coral bleaching.

"Studies have documented the negative impact of these chemicals on corals and other marine life. Our natural environment is fragile, and our own interaction with the earth can have lasting impacts," said Ige.

"The new law is just one small first step worldwide toward protecting the health and resiliency of Hawaii's coral reefs."

Sunscreen containing oxybenzone and octinoxate will only be available to those with a medical prescription. In the past decades, Earth has lost about half its coral reefs.

"We started noticing declines in coral reefs around 1980-1985, which is about the same time that personal care products, like sunscreen lotion, were used prominently by tourists going to these beaches and visiting these coral reefs," Craig Downs, PhD executive director at the Haereticus Environmental Lab, explains in the film "Reefs at Risk."

"Oxybenzone can cause an adverse effect in coral at 62 parts per trillion. That is equivalent to one drop of water in six and a half Olympic sized swimming pools. So you don't need a lot to cause a lot of damage.

Approximately 14,00 tons of sunscreen enter water around coral reefs each year. In popular beaches, you can actually see sunscreen on the surface of the water.

Learn why sunscreen can be toxic.