Hawaii to Ban Sale and Distribution of Sunscreens Deemed Harmful to Coral Reefs

Written by on July 09, 2018. Posted in Environmental laws

On July 3, 2018, Hawaii Governor, David Ige signed a Bill to ban the sale and distribution of sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. The Hawaiian state legislature passed Bill SB2571 in May of this year in response to scientific evidence suggesting that oxybenzone and octinoxate play a role in the death of coral reefs. According to the state legislature, oxybenzone and octinoxate cause mortality in development coral, increase susceptibility to coral bleaching, and cause genetic damage to coral and other marine organisms.

Critics fear that the ban, scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2021, will discourage the use of sunscreen altogether since a significant portion of sunscreens on the market currently contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. The Bill is clear, however, that the ban will prohibit only the sale and distribution of such sunscreens in Hawaii, and will not prohibit their actual use. Consumers in Hawaii will also retain access to “reef-safe” sunscreen alternatives, such as mineral-based sunscreens containing zinc-oxide and titanium oxide. This is a big step for the legislature and will help protect the health and vitality of the coral reefs.