Hawaii Will Be The First State To Ban Chemical Sunscreen

The move will help to preserve and protect our oceans.

A bill was recently passed by the Hawaii state legislature to ban chemical sunscreen. It prohibits the sale and distribution of any sunscreen that contains oxybenzone and octinoxate without a prescription from a licensed physician. This bill is so important as these chemicals can harm ocean life and contribute to coral bleaching, which can cause coral reefs to die. Corals may only make up a small part of our oceanic ecosystems, but they play an important role. They protect our shorelines, support fishing industries, and about 25 percent of marine species depend on coral reefs for food and shelter

Areas that are warm year-round and filled with beach-going travelers, such as Hawaii and the Caribbean are particularly susceptible to contamination from these harmful chemicals. About 14,000 tons of sunscreen enter the world's reefs every year, according to a 2015 study published in Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. Many commonly purchased sunscreens, including Coppertone and Banana Boat, contain these ingredients that damage marine life. 

So, Hawaii is taking a stand. 

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"Hawaii is the first state in the nation to pass a measure of this magnitude," state Sen. Will Espero wrote on Twitter after the bill passed in his chamber. "The world was watching. We delivered. Preserve and protect our ocean environment!" 

Next, the bill will go to Gov. David Ige's office. If signed, the law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

That may be a few years away, but you can start to make a difference now by purchasing sunscreen that does not contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. 

Hawaiian Airlines has already been doing its part to protect the state's corals. Last month, they began offering passengers free samples of natural sunscreens without those ingredients and encouraging passengers to watch a short in-flight documentary about the environmental challenges affecting reefs. 

Many others businesses are implementing their own bans. "Some of the stuff happening on the ground is pretty remarkable," Caroline Duell, founder of the Safe Sunscreen Council and owner of a natural-sunscreen company, told Outside. "Nonprofits, athletes, and hotels in Hawaii are starting to create their own regulations for what can and can't be used. That's really exciting."

Cover image via paultarasenko / Shutterstock.com

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