Hawaii Says No to Sunscreens

Several manufacturers will have to change their product’s formula, or the product may get removed from the shelves in Aloha state, Hawaii. The lawmakers of Hawaii had to take an extreme step to protect coral reefs. Numerous popular sunscreens contain chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are extremely harmful for coral reefs. The chemicals that protect beachgoers from the Sun’s UV radiations are now turned into the death of several underwater plants. According to a research by Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, a non-profit scientific organization, these chemicals damage Hawaii’s marine environment.

The study analyzed coral waters after tourists’ swim in the oceans and concluded that the chemicals seep into young corals and result in coral bleaching. Coral bleaching happens when corals are stressed by frequent changes in temperature, light, or nutrients. They give away symbiotic algae and turn completely white. Moreover, these chemicals prevent coral reefs from regenerating and make them less resilient to climate changes. According to a paper published in 2015 by Craig Downs, over 14,000 tons of sunscreen goes into the world’s reefs every year. This has resulted in a severe damage to corals, and therefore, Hawaii approved the ban of sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. However, if the lotion is prescribed by licensed physician, the sale is legal. This law makes Hawaii the first nation to put ban on such large scale to protect ocean environment. The bill will be passed for approval and if it gets approved, the law will be effective in 2021.

There are over 3,500 lotions that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate such as Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic. These will get prohibited unless they change their formula. There are endless awareness campaigns that urge people to opt for Hawaii-based natural sunscreen. However, popular sunscreen manufacturers are against this law, and do not want the approval of the governor, David Ige. Craig Downs said, “This could be the first real chance we have to go against these companies and save local reefs. There are several things that can kill coral reefs. However, oxybenzone and octinoxate prevent them from regenerating. Furthermore, harm of sunscreen is not restricted to reefs, but it also affects sea urchins, a source of food for sea turtles.”

However, there are some people against this decision. Tina Yamaki, the president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, believes that there should be more independent studies on this subject and only after gathering solid evidences, we should make an informed decision about the ban on sunscreen.

Despite the skeptical replies of the retailers, it is sure that this ban is a necessary step to preserve coral reefs and protect the ocean environment. There are several sunscreen lotions that do not contain such harmful chemicals, and several manufacturers already sell “reef-friendly” sunscreens. Since, humanity’s reckless behavior already has cost us extinction of countless species, and by banning few sunscreens, if we can save coral reefs, it will be fairly a small expense!