Hawaii bans sale of sunscreens with coral-harming chemicals

Hawaii lawmakers passed legislation earlier this year banning the sale and distribution of sunscreens made with oxybenzone and octinoxate.

While Hawaii legislators touted the bill as a victory for coral reefs, others expressed concerns about its potential economic repercussions.

In May, the state House and Senate passed legislation that prohibits the sale and distribution of sunscreen with the active ingredients in the top-rated brands "without prescription from a licensed healthcare provider".

"Unfortunately, people also pose the greatest threat to coral reefs", according to the Smithsonian.

While environmentalists and most residents of Hawaii applaud approval of the legislation, some merchants have anxious the move may hurt at the cash register as about 70% of all common sunscreens now on the market would fall under this ban.

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.

"When you think about it, our island paradise, surrounded by coral reefs, is the ideal place to set the gold standard for the world to follow", he told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. "Governor, by signing this measure, you are presenting our community with a unique moment in time to protect our coral reefs".

Environmentalists have taken the stance that without action now, the coral reefs of Hawaii will only suffer more unnecessary damage. "By taking the lead on banning these unsafe chemicals in sunscreens, we've started a tidal wave which will help bring our coral reefs back to life", he told KHON2 News. "We've got [a] limited amount of time".

"Studies have documented the negative impact of these chemicals on corals and other marine life", the Democratic governor said.

"Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that excess sun exposure without effective sunscreen increases the risk of developing skin cancer in both adults and children", the association said in a statement in May.

Gov. David Ige signed the bill Tuesday that makes selling sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate illegal.

This law does not include products marketed or intended for use as a cosmetic.

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