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 ()
Sponsored
Health
Mark Doliner / CC BY-SA 2.0

110 Million Americans May Be Drinking PFAS-Contaminated Water

More than 1,500 drinking water systems across the country may be contaminated with the nonstick chemicals PFOA and PFOS, and similar fluorine-based chemicals, a new EWG analysis shows. This groundbreaking finding comes the same day the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is convening a summit to address PFAS chemicals—a class of toxic chemicals that includes PFOA and PFOS, and that are linked to cancer, thyroid disease, weakened immunity and other health problems.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Fern MacDougal's stand on Pocahontas Road. Appalachians Against Pipelines

Tree-Sitters Launch 9th Aerial Blockade of Mountain Valley Pipeline

Resistance is growing against the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) designed to carry fracked gas 300 miles from northwest West Virginia to southern Virginia.

On Monday morning, a woman named Fern MacDougal strung up a platform 30 feet in the air that is suspended by ropes tied to surrounding trees in Virginia's Jefferson National Forest.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and olive oil. G.steph.rocket / CC BY-SA 4.0

Can the Mediterranean Diet Protect You Against Air Pollution Health Risks?

Air pollution is a serious and growing public health concern. Ninety-five percent of the Earth's population breathes unsafe air, and scientists are discovering more and more health risks associated with doing so.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Increased ocean temperatures are causing Noctiluca scintillans to cause waves like these, photographed on a Japanese beach in 2017, to wash up on beaches in Mumbai. Doricono / CC BY-SA 4.0

Mumbai’s Glowing Waves a Sign of Climate Change

A recent study by Indian and U.S. scientists found that climate change might be the cause of an eerily beautiful phenomenon on Mumbai beaches, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Irma Omerhodzic

EPA Guard Shoves Reporter, Multiple News Outlets Blocked From Water Pollution Event

By Jessica Corbett

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) blocked reporters from CNN, E&E News and the Associated Press from attending a summit about water pollution on Tuesday, and a security guard reportedly grabbed a journalist by the shoulders and "forcibly" shoved her out of the building.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Simulated flooding caused by a Category 3 hurricane striking Theodore Roosevelt Island in Washington, DC. NPS

National Park Service Releases Climate Report That Officials Tried to Censor

The National Parks Service (NPS) quietly released a long-delayed report that mentions humanity's role in climate change, which officials had removed in earlier drafts.

The report, published Friday without a press release or any social media activity from the parks department or Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, shows estimates of sea level change for 118 coastal national park sites and estimates of storm surge for 79 of the sites.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
The Murphy oil site in West Adams, LA, sits as close as 200 feet from homes and playgrounds. Sarah Craig / Faces of Fracking / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Will Gov. Brown Plug the Dangerous Hole in California’s Climate Action?

By Kelly Trout

California Gov. Jerry Brown is gearing up to host leaders from state, tribal, and local governments, business and citizens from around the world at a Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco this September. His goal is to "inspire deeper commitments" in support of the Paris agreement goals. He has emphasized that, on climate, "so far the response is not adequate to the challenge" and "no nation or state is doing what they should be doing."

Keep reading... Show less
Business
Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines Launches #StrawlessSkies Campaign

As part of its worldwide push "For a Strawless Ocean," Alaska Airlines announced Monday that its 44 million yearly passengers will fly in "strawless skies."

Starting July 16, the leading U.S. airline on the 2017 Dow Jones Sustainability Index will stop distributing single-use plastic stirring straws and citrus picks in its lounges and on its domestic and international flights. It is the the first U.S. airline to do so. The non-recyclable items, which the airline distributed 22 million of last year, will be replaced with Forest Stewardship Council certified birch stirring sticks and bamboo citrus pickers.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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