Hawaii First State To Ban Sunscreens With Coral Reef-Harming Ingredients


The Governor of Hawaii just signed a bill banning sunscreens with coral reef-harming chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate starting January 2021. What does this mean for the future of skin protection in the island state?  ( Daniel Holm Hansen | Pixabay )

Hawaii has become the first state to ban sunscreens that contain two ingredients known to be harmful to coral reefs. Some sectors praise the move while others criticize it.

What does the ban mean for coral reef and skin protection?

Hawaii Governor Signs New Law

On July 3, Hawaii Governor David Ige signed several bills including landmark Senate Bill 2571 which bans the sale, offering for sale, as well as the distribution of sunscreens with coral reef-harming chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. According to Gov. Ige, the purpose of the new law is to protect marine ecosystems and coral reefs which, based on scientific studies, are being seriously harmed by the said chemicals which get into the water from swimmers, as well as from sewage waste.

Studies have shown that the soon-to-be-banned chemicals harm coral reefs in various ways, from promoting coral bleaching, to inhibiting the growth of new corals and causing genetic damage to coral reefs as well as other marine creatures.

“Our natural environment is fragile, and our own interaction with the earth can have lasting impacts,” said Gov. Ige in a statement. Sen. Roz Baker also expressed her support for the bill, and reiterated the importance of coral reefs on the health of the entire planet.

The legislation was passed by state lawmakers in early May, making the island state the first U.S. state to make such a move. The ban is set to be effective by Jan. 1, 2021, and does not affect makeup as well as prescribed sunscreens that contain the said ingredients.

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Praise And Criticism

Evidently, while the move was praised by many environmental groups, some sectors such as the trade industry, business groups, as well as some from health care have qualms about it. Specifically, some dermatologists worry that the move might prevent beachgoers from wearing any protective sunscreen at all, placing them at higher risk for sunburn and skin cancer. In fact, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association called the move “irresponsible” as it supposedly prevents families from properly protecting themselves from ultraviolet rays.

Sunscreens are often the first line of defense when it comes to protecting the skin, whether one is on the beach or just performing his or her daily duties, so it’s only natural to be concerned over the new law’s implications on skin care and protection. However, it’s worth noting that it is only sunscreens with the said ingredients that will be banned, and not all sunscreens altogether.

Time To Learn Safe Sun Protection

As the ban is expected to be effective roughly two and half years from the day it was signed, perhaps there is still time for many to be more familiar with the sunscreens that do not have the said harmful ingredients, and may also protect the skin effectively without the risk of also harming marine life. Even now, there are already safe sunscreens in the market that do not contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, are made using organic ingredients, and are great even for sensitive skin.

Further, other measures such as staying away from direct sunlight during peak hours, wearing ample protective clothing, not using sun lamps and tanning beds, and becoming more aware of reflective surfaces that can inadvertently cause sunburn even without direct sun exposure, are also very important measures when it comes to skin protection

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