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."
- Hawaii to Approve Landmark Ban on Coral-Damaging Sunscreens ... ›
- Hawaii Lawmakers Pass Ban on Coral-Damaging Sunscreen ... ›
- Hawaii sunscreen ban: Governor Ige signs SB 2571 banning coral ... ›
- Ban Toxic Sunscreens | Ban sunscreens that are dangerous to ... ›
- Key West sunscreen: City bans sunblock containing oxybenzone ... ›
By 2018 Ocean Heroes: Claire MacQueen (13 years old), Sabine Thomas (13) and Ava Inskeep (14)
We despise single-use plastics. We want to keep our oceans and our beaches clean. Early last year I (Claire) lived in India for several months and became curious about plastic waste, as it was much more visible in India than back home in the U.S. Seeing all the plastic waste while I was visiting helped me to understand that much of the trash produced by the U.S. actually ends up in developing countries, like India, which does not have a proper waste management system like we do at home, which causes a ton of trash to end up in waterways and the ocean.
In a case watched closely both by polluting industries and clean water advocates across the nation, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up an appeal of a Clean Water Act case out of Hawaii concerning treated sewage flowing into the Pacific Ocean from injection wells.