Hawaii Will Likely Become the First State to Ban Certain Sunscreens. Here’s Why

May 2, 2018, 12:48 PM UTC

Hawaii could become the first U.S. state to ban sunscreen products containing toxic chemicals dangerous to coral reefs and ocean life.

The state’s legislature passed a bill Tuesday outlawing the sale of two particular chemicals — oxybenzone and octinoxate — found in many sunscreens, according to BuzzFeed. The proposed law will now go to the desk of Hawaii’s governor, who can sign the bill into law and enact the ban starting in 2021.

Scientific research has shown that both oxybenzone and octinoxate destroy coral by absorbing its nutrients, affecting coral-dependent marine life like sea urchins and algae.

A 2015 study found that roughly 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion makes it way to coral reefs around the world every year. Popular tourist beaches in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands were among the highest concentrations of these products.

Even away from the beaches, the sunscreens can still damage the ocean.

“More and more people realize, as you go home and shower the water is getting treated and put out into the ocean,” Hawaii state Sen. Laura Thielen told local station KHON2. “So really it’s damaging our corals no matter whether you’re wearing it on land or at the beach.”

While oxybenzone and octinoxate are prevalent in most sunscreens, there are alternative products that use safer ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide. Sun protection clothing is also an option.

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