Looking forward to a day exploring coral reefs in Hawaii? Make sure you’re wearing the right, non-banned sunscreen.
Hawaii has become the first US state to ban sunscreens deemed harmful to coral reefs. Effective from Jan. 1, 2021, the bill was signed by state governor David Ige on Tuesday.
The legislature focuses on the environmental impacts of two chemicals found in some sunscreens, oxybenzone and octinoxate, and their effect on Hawaii’s marine ecosystems — including coral reefs. The bill will prohibit the sale and distribution of sunscreen containing these chemicals without a prescription.
According to the BBC, the chemicals are used in over 3,500 popular sunscreen products.
The “contamination” of Hawaii’s coastal waters with these chemicals is pinpointed in the bill as considerably threatening in popular swimming beaches and coral reef areas including Waimea Bay, Hanauma Bay, and Waikiki Beach on Oahu, and Honolua Bay and Ahihi-Kīnau natural area reserve on Maui.
According to the bill, oxybenzone and octinoxate cause mortality in developing coral, and cause genetic damage to coral and other marine organisms. The bill also says the chemicals have “been shown to degrade corals’ resiliency and ability to adjust to climate change factors and inhibit recruitment of new corals.”
Wait, haven’t we heard about these chemicals before?
As we’ve noted before, the effects of one of the banned chemicals, oxybenzone, on coral reefs proved the cornerstone of a scientific study released in 2015, which sparked global headlines faulting sunscreen for the decline of reefs.
The study, published in the journal, Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, determined the chemical had a detrimental affect on the DNA of coral.
But many scientists criticised the controlled laboratory conditions of the experiments, and argued that although the chemicals do have a negative effect on the reefs, in the scale of things they have much bigger threats than sunscreen toxins — say, ocean acidification and coral bleaching caused by climate change, and pesticide/waste run-off.
Look, a ban on chemicals impacting coral reefs is excellent, game-changing news, there’s no doubt about that, but perhaps legislation that adequately tackles climate change is as pressing a need.
This article was originally sourced from here.