Quantcast

Key West Bans Coral-Damaging Sunscreen

Oceans
Partially bleached corals on Molasses Reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Matt Kieffer / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

City officials in Key West have put the cap on sunscreen—or at least varieties that contain chemicals believed to harm coral reefs and increase coral bleaching and death.

The Florida Keys is home to the third largest living coral barrier reef system in the world. The ecosystem is a habitat for fish species and other marine life and also serves as economically important touristic and recreational spot.


On Tuesday, the City Commission voted 6-to-1 to prohibit sales of sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, according to FLKeysNews. The ban will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

"We have one reef, and we have to do one small thing to protect that. It's our obligation," Mayor Teri Johnston said before the vote, as quoted by FLKeysNews.

People with medical prescriptions are exempt from the ban, Johnston told The New York Times. The first offense would be met with a warning and the second offense would incur an as yet undetermined fine.

The move follows efforts from Hawaii, which became the first state to ban sunscreens with the same two chemicals last year. The Aloha State's ban takes effect in 2021.

Last year, the Pacific archipelago of Palau also banned sunscreens containing any one of 10 chemicals that may be reef toxic.

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.

City commissioner Greg Davila, the only dissenter during Tuesday's vote, said, "We're not giving residents the freedom to choose what sunscreens they want to use," according to FLKeysNews.

Studies have shown that the oxybenzone and octinoxate can damage fragile coral reef systems. 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 previously reported.

In case you'd like try a "reef-safe" sunscreen, Hawaii.com published a list of options. The chief executive of Cancer Council Australia, Sanchia Aranda, told the Guardian that sunscreen should be the last line of defense against UV rays. Aranda advised that sunscreen should be used on top of wearing protective clothing, sunglasses, a hat "and people should also stay in the shade as much as possible."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

David Gilmour performs at Anfiteatro Scavi di Pomei on July 7, 2016 in Pompei, Italy. Francesco Prandoni / Redferns / Getty Images

David Gilmour, guitarist, singer and songwriter in the rock band Pink Floyd, set a record last week when he auctioned off 126 guitars and raised $21.5 million for ClientEarth, a non-profit environmental law group dedicated to fighting the global climate crisis, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue speaks during a forum April 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

The Trump administration ratcheted up its open hostility to climate science in a move that may hide essential information from the nation's farmers.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Zero Waste Kitchen Essentials

Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.

Sponsored

By Kayla Robbins

Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.

Read More Show Less
Protestors and police stand on ether side of railway tracks. dpa / picture-alliance

Police have cleared 250 climate activists who stayed overnight at the Garzweiler brown coal mine in western Germany, officials said Sunday.

Read More Show Less
Cecilie_Arcurs / E+ / Getty Images

By Megan Jones and Jennifer Solomon

The #MeToo movement has caused profound shake-ups at organizations across the U.S. in the last two years. So far, however, it has left many unresolved questions about how workplaces can be more inclusive and equitable for women and other diverse groups.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Cigarette butts are the most-littered item found at beach clean ups. John R. Platt

By Tara Lohan

By now it's no secret that plastic waste in our oceans is a global epidemic. When some of it washes ashore — plastic bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers — we get a stark reminder. And lately one part of this problem has been most glaring to volunteers who comb beaches picking up trash: cigarette butts.

Read More Show Less

Andrea Rodgers, second from the right, takes notes during a hearing in the Juliana v. U.S. case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland, Oregon on June 4. Colleague Elizabeth Brown sits to her left, while colleague Julia Olson sits on her right, with co-council Philip Gregory on Julia's right. Robin Loznak / Our Children's Trust

By Fran Korten

On June 4, Andrea Rodgers was in the front row of attorneys sitting before a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court. The court session, held in Portland, Oregon, was to determine whether the climate change lawsuit (Juliana v. United States) brought by 21 young plaintiffs should be dismissed, as requested by the U.S. government, or go on to trial.

Read More Show Less
Seventy Extinction Rebellion protesters were arrested outside The New York Times building Saturday. SCOOTERCASTER / YouTube screenshot

Seventy Extinction Rebellion protesters were arrested outside The New York Times building Saturday as they demanded the paper improve its coverage of the climate crisis, Reuters reported.

Read More Show Less