Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Hawaii to Approve Landmark Ban on Coral-Damaging Sunscreens

Oceans
Coral reef outcrop part of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge and the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Lindsey Kramer / USFWS / CC BY-NC 2.0

Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed a bill Tuesday prohibiting the sale of sunscreen that contains chemicals considered harmful to ocean ecosystems, including coral reefs.

The Aloha State is the first in the nation to enact such a law.


"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. This new law is just one step toward protecting the health and resiliency of Hawai'i's coral reefs," said Gov. Ige in a press release.

The measure, introduced by Democratic State Sen. Mike Gabbard, bans in Hawaii the sale and distribution of all sunscreen containing oxybenzone or octinoxate, or both, without a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider.

Extensive coral bleaching is occurring in Hawaii's most popular snorkeling spot, Hanauma Bay. While studies have identified climate change as one of the drivers of the bleaching, scientists also blame the estimated 412 pounds of sunscreen that leaches into the tourist-heavy bay per day.

Even a drop of oxybenzone in 4.3 million gallons of water, or six and a half Olympic sized swimming pools worth, is enough to harm corals, the New York Times reported.

Gabbard noted in an Instagram post that the landmark legislation is not just a first for the U.S., it's also the first law of its kind in the world.

He pointed out that since the ban does not take effect in the state until 2021, it's important for the world to take notice of this timely issue, as the health of coral reefs are declining in waters across the globe.

Up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen bleed into the world's reefs every year, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.

Hawaii's legislation was praised by conservation groups.

"The significance of this action will extend far beyond the islands. With 9 million visitors each year, Hawaii's commitment will educate consumers worldwide about the harmful effects that sunscreen can have on marine life," Matt Ramsey, director of Conservation International Hawaii in a press release.

"Coral reefs are a critical component of our food, culture, economy and overall way of life. We simply must protect them," Ramsey added.

Oxybenzone and octinoxate, which filter UV rays, can be found in more than 3,500 sunscreen products, including popular ones sold by Hawaiian Tropic, Banana Boat and Coppertone.

There are many reef-safe sunscreen options available, which contain minerals such as zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Edgewell Personal Care, makers of Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic sunscreens, told Outside: "To meet consumer needs, we produce several Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic products that are free of oxybenzone and octinoxate."

In his Instagram post, Gabbard linked to a 5-minute video called Reefs At Risk that highlights the sunscreen additives' adverse effects on fragile coral reefs and other marine life.

Watch here:

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter


"Emissions from pyrotechnic displays are composed of numerous organic compounds as well as metals," a new study reports. Nodar Chernishev / EyeEm / Getty Images

Fireworks have taken a lot of heat recently. In South Dakota, fire experts have said President Trump's plan to hold a fireworks show is dangerous and public health experts have criticized the lack of plans to enforce mask wearing or social distancing. Now, a new study shows that shooting off fireworks at home may expose you and your family to dangerous levels of lead, copper and other toxins.

Read More Show Less
Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons. Curtis Palmer / CC by 2.0

By Ashutosh Pandey

Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
A women walks with COVID-19 care kits distributed by Boston's Office of Neighborhood Services in Boston, Massachusetts on May 28, 2020. The pandemic has led to a rise in single-use plastic items, but reusable bags and cloth masks can be two ways to reduce waste. JOSEPH PREZIOSO / AFP via Getty Images

This month is Plastic Free July, the 31 days every year when millions of people pledge to give up single-use plastics.

Read More Show Less
The south Asian paradise tree snake can launch itself into the air and glide from one tree branch to another. Thai National Parks, CC by 2.0

Did you know that some snakes can fly?

The south Asian paradise tree snake (Chrysopelea paradisi) can launch itself into the air and glide from one tree branch to another. And when it does, it moves its body in waves in something known as aerial undulation. Scientists have long known how the snakes moved. But they didn't know why. Until now.

Read More Show Less
A diver swims with sharpfin barracuda, one of the many ocean species under threat from global warming, in Australia, Queensland, Great Barrier Reef. Pete Atkinson / The Image Bank / Getty Images Plus

The oceans could look much emptier by 2100, according to a new study that found that most fish species would not be able to survive in their current habitat if average global temperatures rise 4.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less
Women walk from Santa Monica beach after a social media workout on the sand on May 12, 2020 in Santa Monica, California. Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Independence Day weekend is a busy time for coastal communities as people flock to the beaches to soak up the sun during the summer holiday. This year is different. Some of the country's most popular beach destinations in Florida and California have decided to close their beaches to stop the surge in coronavirus cases.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Daily fireworks in many U.S. cities in recent weeks have no doubt been interfering with the sleep and peace of mind of thousands of veterans and others who suffer from PTSD. Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Arash Javanbakht

For some combat veterans, the Fourth of July is not a time to celebrate the independence of the country they love. Instead, the holiday is a terrifying ordeal. That's because the noise of fireworks – loud, sudden, and reminiscent of war – rocks their nervous system. Daily fireworks in many U.S. cities in recent weeks have no doubt been interfering with the sleep and peace of mind of thousands of veterans.

Read More Show Less