Quantcast
Animals
Bleached corals. NOAA / Bernardo Vargas-Ángel

Hawaii Lawmakers Pass Ban on Coral-Damaging Sunscreen

Lawmakers in Hawaii passed a bill Tuesday prohibiting the sale of sunscreens that are harmful to ocean ecosystems, including coral reefs.

The bill now heads to Governor David Ige for his signature. If signed, Hawaii will ban these sunscreens starting Jan. 1, 2021 and become the first state in the nation to enact such a law.


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

As the text of the bill explains, studies have shown that the two chemicals can cause mortality in developing coral, increase coral bleaching, cause genetic damage to coral and other marine organisms, induce feminization in adult male fish and increase reproductive diseases in marine invertebrate species.

"These chemicals have also been shown to degrade corals' resiliency and ability to adjust to climate change factors and inhibit recruitment of new corals," the text adds.

The Senate approved the bill unanimously. Four members of the House were opposed.

"Amazingly, this is a first-in-the-world law," Gabbard told the Honolulu Star Advertiser via email. "So, Hawaii is definitely on the cutting edge by banning these dangerous chemicals in sunscreens. 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. This will make a huge difference in protecting our coral reefs, marine life, and human health."

Oxybenzone and octinoxate, which filter UV rays, is found in some of the biggest sunscreen brands, including ones sold by Hawaiian Tropic, Banana Boat and Coppertone. These damaging compounds enter the environment when washed off in the sink or shower or directly from swimmers wearing sunscreen.

Extensive coral bleaching is occurring in Hawaii's most popular snorkelling spot, Hanauma Bay. While studies have shown than global warming is one factor behind 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.

But this problem is not just happening in Hawaii. 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.

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, also told Outside: "To meet consumer needs, we produce several Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic products that are free of oxybenzone and octinoxate."

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Insights/Opinion
A northern cardinal and finch in the snow. Mark Moschell / Flickr

Is Winter Miserable for Wildlife?

By Bridget B. Baker

While the weather outside may indeed get frightful this winter, a parka, knit hat, wool socks, insulated boots and maybe a roaring fire make things bearable for people who live in cold climates. But what about all the wildlife out there? Won't they be freezing?

Anyone who's walked their dog when temperatures are frigid knows that canines will shiver and favor a cold paw—which partly explains the boom in the pet clothing industry. But chipmunks and cardinals don't get fashionable coats or booties.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
A green sea turtle, one of the animals whose population has increased because of Endangered Species Act protections. Mark Sullivan / NOAA

Marine Mammals and Turtles Protected by the Endangered Species Act Are Bouncing Back

The Endangered Species Act works. That's the conclusion of a peer-reviewed study undertaken by scientists at the Center for Biological Diversity and published in PLOS ONE Wednesday.

The study looked at 31 populations of 19 species of marine mammals and sea turtles in the U.S. that had been granted endangered species protections and found that around three-quarters of them had increased in size.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Students demonstrate in Brussels Thursday calling for climate action. NICOLAS MAETERLINCK / AFP / Getty Images

12,000+ Belgian Students Skip School to Demand Climate Action

Around 12,500 Belgian students marched in Brussels Thursday, joining a growing movement of young people around the world who have started skipping school to demand climate action.

"There is actually no point going to school if our world is going to die," 16-year-old demonstrator Mariam told BBC News in a video.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy
A prototype of GE's massive new wind turbine will be installed in the industrial area of Maasvlakte 2 in Rotterdam. GE Renewable Energy

World's Largest Wind Turbine to Test Its Wings in Rotterdam

Rotterdam's skyline will soon feature the world's largest and most powerful offshore wind turbine.

GE Renewable Energy announced on Wednesday it will install the first 12-megawatt Haliade-X prototype in the Dutch city this summer. Although it's an offshore wind turbine by design, the prototype will be installed onshore to facilitate access for testing.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Insights/Opinion
Colorful, fresh organic vegetables. fcafotodigital / Getty Images

A New Diet for the Planet

By Tim Radford

An international panel of health scientists and climate researchers has prescribed a new diet for the planet: more vegetables, less meat, fresh fruit, whole grains and pulses, give up sugar, waste less and keep counting the calories.

And if 200 nations accept the diagnosis and follow doctor's orders, tomorrow's farmers may be able to feed 10 billion people comfortably by 2050, help contain climate change, and prevent 11 million premature deaths per year.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Children's books about the environment. U.S. Air Force photo / Karen Abeyasekere

This State Might Require Public Schools to Teach Climate Change

Reading, writing, arithmetic ... and climate science. That doesn't have the same ring as the "three Rs" of education, but Connecticut could one day require the subject to be on the curriculum, The Associated Press reported.

A Connecticut state lawmaker is pushing a bill to mandate the teaching of climate change in public schools throughout the state, starting in elementary school.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
NASA's ICESCAPE mission investigates the changing conditions in the Arctic. NASA / Kathryn Hansen

These Eye-Opening Memes Show the Real 10-Year Challenge

Before-and-after photos of your friends have probably taken over your Facebook and Instagram feeds, but environmentalists are using the #10YearChallenge to insert a dose of truth.

Memes of shrinking glaciers, emaciated polar bears and coral bleaching certainly subvert the feel-good viral sensation, but these jarring images really show our planet in a worrying state of flux.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Vial containing swab from a deceased duck, collected for testing during the 2014-2015 avian influenza outbreak. © 2015 Erica Cirino, used with permission.

Could Trump’s Government Shutdown Cause Outbreaks of Wildlife Disease?

By Erica Cirino

The current U.S. government shutdown could worsen ongoing wildlife disease outbreaks or even delay responses to new epidemics, according to federal insiders and outside experts who work with federal wildlife employees.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!