Anyone who spends a significant amount of time outside knows the importance of using sunscreen. It’s vital to protecting our skin. However, many may not realize that many sunscreens can be harmful to marine life. In fact, some are so harmful that Hawaii just became the first state to ban the sale of some sunscreens inside the state.
Oxybenzone and octinoxate are two chemicals that are found in many popular brands of sunscreen, and research has shown that these two chemicals can damage marine ecosystems. While these chemicals do wonders at filtering out harmful UV rays and protecting our skin, they also get left behind in the water after beachgoers swim, and they contribute to coral bleaching within reefs. When coral bleaches, it no longer produces the nutrients that other marine life need to survive.
In 2015, a study by the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology showed that nearly 14,000 tons of sunscreen seep into the planet’s reefs each year. Hawaii’s recent legislative decision will help reduce that number by banning the sale of sunscreens that contain the two chemicals unless the buyer has a prescription from a doctor.
Much of Hawaii’s culture and economic infrastructure revolves around the islands’ reefs and marine life, and representatives of the state are confident that other states and governments will follow. They’ve set a pretty substantial bar in protecting and preserving the world’s ocean environment.
The legislative bill doesn’t imply that we should all burn when visiting Hawaii’s beaches. There are plenty of all natural sunscreens available that don’t contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. In fact, Hawaiian Airlines actually gives their passengers free samples of these natural sunscreens. In addition, the airline also educates its passengers by playing a short documentary on each flight regarding reefs and the environmental challenges they face.
The sunscreen ban isn’t officially a done deal just yet. Like any other bill, it must go before the Governor of the state (David Ige). If signed off on, it will become law and go into effect on January 1st, 2021.