Hawaii’s ban on “reef-unfriendly” sunscreen

by Austin Yeung 2017-02-06

Symbiosis Sea TurtleJanuary 20th, US Senator Will Espero proposed a bill banning sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate: chemicals that have been found to be harmful to Hawaii’s reefs. The ban, if successful, helps to protect Hawaiian reefs and maintain the heavy tourism economy the¬†coral reefs attract. The ban has also been noticed by other regions that rely on reefs, including Palau and the British Virgin Islands.

Research in 2016 by the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Clifford, Virginia has found octinoxate to stunt the growth of baby corals and oxybenzone to be toxic. These chemicals have been found to cause coral bleaching in the lab as well as in the wild. Field data show that levels of oxybenzone contamination were at 4,000 parts per trillion (ppt) along the most popular beaches off the coast of Maui. With 9 million visitors a year, oxybenzone and octinoxate sunscreen pollution pose a serious environmental hazard.

However, this bill is only a small step in protecting Hawaii’s reefs. Larger concerns of overfishing, coastal runoff, and pollution still pose serious concerns. We should take this step to help promote visitor awareness for Hawaii’s reefs.

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