Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Florida Gov. DeSantis Prohibits Cities From Banning Sunscreens, Even Ones That Harm Coral


Sunscreen pollution is accelerating the demise of coral reefs globally by causing permanent DNA damage to coral. gonzalo martinez / iStock / Getty Images Plus

On July 29, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a controversial bill prohibiting local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens.

SB 172 responds to and reverses the City of Key West's 2019 ban on the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate to protect its coral reef. The ban was set to take effect Jan. 1, 2021, but the new law strikes down that ban and prohibits similar ones.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Key West sits on Florida's Reef Tract, the only barrier reef in the continental U.S.

Florida's multi-billion coastal economy "is highly tied to the coral reefs and dependent on their health," the Environmental and Energy Study Institute found.

Sunscreen pollution is accelerating the demise of coral reefs globally by causing permanent DNA damage to coral, according to experts, reported ABC News.

"(Coral reefs) provide billions of dollars in economic and environmental services, such as food, coastal protection, and tourism," said a NOAA infographic article about the harms of sunscreens. The infographic focuses on how sunscreen chemicals enter the ocean environment, the harm they cause to marine life including corals, fish, algae, etc. and alternative, reef-safe ways to stay protected from the sun.

Common chemicals in sunscreens and cosmetics are "highly toxic" to marine life and "even very low concentrations" of oxybenzone and octinoxate accumulate in coral tissue, inducing bleaching, damaging coral DNA and deforming and killing young coral larvae, according to NOAA.

This harm to the next generation of reefs threatens the survival of corals generally at a time when reefs are already heavily imperiled. NOAA called nontoxic sunscreen alternatives "critical" to protect reefs against "exacerbating effects posted by climate change and bleaching."

Oxybenzone and octinoxate also disrupt the human endocrine system.

Even while the new Florida bill was moving towards DeSantis' desk, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration removed most chemical sunscreens from its list of "safe and effective" products pending health studies, instead designating mineral-based sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as "safe and effective, reported Florida Phoenix.

Proponents of the bill, including many business interests, claim sunscreen is necessary to protect the residents and visitors to the sunshine state from skin cancer.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley spearheaded the bill, disputing the science claiming that sunscreens harm reefs. He argued that protecting tourists and residents from cancer trumps protecting coral reefs, reported Florida Phoenix and CBS Miami.

Those criticizing the bill call it the latest attack on local government home-rule authority as well as on coral reefs, reported Star Tribune.

Some have called the bill a "gross overreaction" to Key West's "measured and reasonable limitation" meant to protect their lucrative, important natural resource, reported Sun-Sentinel.

"When it comes to protecting Florida's coral reefs, the Governor is standing with corporate interests, despite millions of taxpayer dollars spent on reef preservation and restoration," environmental groups said Tuesday in a joint press release, reported Florida Phoenix.

NOAA said that "although pollution is a major cause of coral reef degradation," it is also "the easiest factor to mitigate" because manufacturers and consumers can choose to create and purchase less harmful products. The only issue, NOAA found, was that regulation of the toxic chemicals in sunscreens "has largely been ignored."

DeSantis did not issue statements as his office Monday night released the new bill, reported CBS Miami.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Centrosaurus apertus was a plant-eating, single-horned dinosaur that lived 76 to 77 million years ago. Sergey Krasovskiy / Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

Scientists have discovered and diagnosed the first instance of malignant cancer in a dinosaur, and they did so by using modern medical techniques. They published their results earlier this week in The Lancet Oncology.

Read More Show Less
Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. NPS

By Joe Roman and Taylor Ricketts

The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the "happiness" of people's words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.

Read More Show Less
The ubiquity of guns and bullets poses environmental risks. Contaminants in bullets include lead, copper, zinc, antimony and mercury. gorancakmazovic / iStock / Getty Images Plus

New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday that she will attempt to dismantle the National Rifle Association (NRA), arguing that years of corruption and mismanagement warrant the dissolution of the activist organization, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Bystanders watch the MV Wakashio bulk carrier from which oil is leaking near Blue Bay Marine Park in southeast Mauritius, on August 6, 2020. Photo by Dev Ramkhelawon / L'Express Maurice / AFP / Getty Images

The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, renowned for its coral reefs, is facing an unprecedented ecological catastrophe after a tanker ran aground offshore and began leaking oil.

Read More Show Less
A mural honors the medics fighting COVID-19 in Australia, where cases are once again rising, taken on April 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Robert Cianflone / Getty Images

By Gianna-Carina Grün

While the first countries are easing their lockdowns, others are reporting more and more new cases every day. Data for the global picture shows the pandemic is far from over. DW has the latest statistics.

Read More Show Less
Hannah Watters wrote on Twitter that she was suspended for posting a video and photo of crowded hallways at her high school. hannah @ihateiceman

As the debate over how and if to safely reopen schools in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic continues, two student whistleblowers have been caught in the crosshairs.

Read More Show Less


Hurricane Florence on Sept. 12, 2018. ESA / A.Gerst / CC BY-SA 2.0

Hurricane forecasters predict the 2020 hurricane season will be the second-most active in nearly four decades.

Read More Show Less