Sunscreens are commonly used in tropical countries, especially in Hawaii. Regular beach trips and island hopping activities keep us entertained and close to nature but are also damaging to our skin.
That’s why sunscreens are developed for recreational use to absorb or reflect the sun’s UV rays that are harmful to the skin. While sunscreens are designed to protect us from the sun’s harmful rays, certain chemicals in many sunscreens are believed to be harming the coral reefs.
Hawaii is taking action, being the first state to pass a bill banning sunscreens that play a significant factor in damaging the coral reefs.
The legislation prohibits skin care companies from selling and distributing sunscreens on the islands containing the chemicals, oxybenzone, and octinoxate, that scientists discovered potentially play an important role in coral bleaching.
The worldwide phenomenon has negative impacts on the environment associated with temperature anomalies, high irradiance, pollution, and bacterial diseases.
Coral reefs are among the most biologically productive and diverse ecosystems in the world, representing hot spots of marine biodiversity, and directly sustaining half a billion people.
A study shows that approximately 60 percent of coral reefs are threatened by several natural impacts and human activities, including recreational use of sunscreens.
Thus, coral bleaching has increased in frequency and spatial extent over the last 20 years as production and consumption of sun products are growing worldwide. At the time of a study, researchers estimated about 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion ends up in coral reefs each year.
While the use of sunscreen products is currently banned in a few tourist destinations, including marine eco parks in Mexico, Hawaii would be the first state to enact legislation made to protect marine biodiversity by prohibiting certain sunscreens.
The Senate Bill 2571 targets skin care companies to instantly change their formulas or else, necessary actions will be implemented to the extent of banning these companies in selling sunscreens in the state. The Bill would go into effect in 2021.
The Bill shows that oxybenzone and octinoxate cause mortality in developing coral and increase coral bleaching that indicates extreme stress and cause genetic damage to coral and other marine organisms.
Craig Downs, the executive director of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory says that everyone has come together to support the legislation from “local nurses and doctors, to resorts and airlines, as well as the entrepreneurial spirit of new sunscreen companies to supply reef-safer products.”
Meanwhile, traditional sunscreen producers opposed the legislation, indicating that the chemicals in question are approved by the F.D.A. and vital to preventing skin cancer.
Sunscreens aren’t the only enemy of the marine ecosystem; other factors include ocean warming, agricultural runoff, plastic litters, and sewage dumping. However, banning the use of damaging sunscreens is one variable we can control.