Hawaii becomes 1st state to ban sunscreens deemed harmful to coral reefs

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
July 06, 2018, 10:34:43 AM EDT

Hawaii just became the first state to ban certain sunscreens as a measure to protect the state's essential coral reefs.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed a bill on Tuesday, July 3, banning the sale of sunscreens containing two chemicals, oxybenzone and octinoxate, believed to harm coral reefs and other marine ecosystems.

State lawmakers passed the legislation in early May. Senate Bill 2571 prohibits the sale and distribution of non-prescribed sunscreens on the islands that contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, which can be deadly for coral larvae.

The ban will not be applied to medically prescribed sunscreens or makeup that contain oxybenzone or octinoxate.

Hawaii sunscreen ban 7-3-18

Hawaii Gov. David Ige, center, and surrounded by lawmakers, displays legislation he signed in Honolulu on Tuesday, July 3, 2018, banning the sale of sunscreens containing two chemicals believed to harm coral reefs. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

“This bill is a small first step worldwide to really caring about our corals and our reefs in a way that no one else anywhere in the world has done,” he said during the bill signing.

The law makes Hawaii the first U.S. state to enact legislation designed to protect marine ecosystems by banning such sunscreens. The prohibition takes effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

“We are blessed in Hawaii to be home of some of the most beautiful natural resources on the planet, but our natural environment is fragile, and our own interaction with the Earth can have everlasting impacts,” Ige said.

Several democrats in the state’s legislature offered strong support.

Healthy reefs are a fundamental part of a larger ecosystem, and it is important to the health of our planet, Sen. Roz Baker said in a statement.

"Governor, by signing this measure, you are presenting our community with a unique moment in time to protect our coral reefs," Baker said.

Rep. Chris Lee emphasized the importance of such environmental measures in a statement on Tuesday.

“In my lifetime, our planet has lost about half its coral reefs,” Lee said. “We’ve got to take action to make sure we can protect the other half as best we can because we know that time is against us.”

Hawaii passes bill banning certain sunscreens deemed harmful to coral reefs
How to use sunscreen for maximum UV ray protection
Are you more prone to sunburn? Dermatologists explain key risk factors

Sen. Mike Gabbard said when lawmakers passed the measure that Hawaii is “on the cutting edge.”

“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,” Gabbard told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “This will make a huge difference in protecting our coral reefs, marine life and human health.”

Coral reefs have numerous benefits for the state, such as protecting the coastline, harboring marine life and serving as key tourist attractions for the state.

However, the ban drew opposition from many when it was proposed, largely from sunscreen manufacturers and medical groups.

The chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate are used in more than 3,500 of the world's most popular sunscreen products, including Hawaiian Tropic, Coppertone and Banana Boat.

The Washington Post reported in early May that many organizations made public statements in opposition to the ban.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) released a statement in response to the Hawaii sunscreen ban in May, stating that it would severely compromise the safety and welfare of millions of Hawaii residents and tourists by banning at least 70 percent of the sunscreens on the market today.

Mineral sunscreens that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to physically block the sun's rays are still allowed.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) provides a list of reef-safe sunscreen brands.

Report a Typo


Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.

More Weather News