Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Hawaii Lawmakers Pass Ban on Coral-Damaging Sunscreen

Animals
Bleached corals. NOAA / Bernardo Vargas-Ángel

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."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A bald eagle chick inside a nest in Rutland, Massachusetts. Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
A bald eagle nest with eggs has been discovered in Cape Cod for the first time in 115 years, according to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (Mass Wildlife), as Newsweek reported.
Read More Show Less
The office of Rover.com sits empty with employees working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 12 in Seattle, Washington. John Moore / Getty Images

The office may never look the same again. And the investment it will take to protect employees may force many companies to go completely remote. That's after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations for how workers can return to the office safely.

Read More Show Less
Frederic Edwin Church's The Icebergs reveal their danger as a crush vessel is in the foreground of an iceberg strewn sea, 1860. Buyenlarge / Getty Images

Scientists and art historians are studying art for signs of climate change and to better understand the ways Western culture's relationship to nature has been altered by it, according to the BBC.

Read More Show Less
Esben Østergaard, co-founder of Lifeline Robotics and Universal Robots, takes a swab in the World's First Automatic Swab Robot, developed with Thiusius Rajeeth Savarimuthu, professor at the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute at The University of Southern Denmark. The University of Southern Denmark

By Richard Connor

The University of Southern Denmark on Wednesday announced that its researchers have developed the world's first fully automatic robot capable of carrying out throat swabs for COVID-19.

Read More Show Less
Jackson Family Wines in California discovered that a huge amount of carbon pollution was caused by manufacturing wine bottles. Edsel Querini / Getty Images

Before you pour a glass of wine, feel the weight of the bottle in your hand. Would you notice if it were a few ounces lighter? Jackson Family Wines is betting that you won't.

Read More Show Less
The SpaceX crew capsule will launch out of Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX

After a minor setback, a new era in space travel and tourism is set to launch this weekend.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A former Federal Reserve board of governors member on Thursday called on her former colleagues to stop using Covid-19 relief funds to bail out the "dying" fossil fuel industry. Douglas Sacha / Getty Images

By Eoin Higgins

A former Federal Reserve board of governors member on Thursday called on her former colleagues to stop using Covid-19 relief funds to bail out the "dying" fossil fuel industry, calling the decision a threat to the planet's climate and a misguided use of taxpayer money.

Read More Show Less