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Hawaii Works to Ban Sunscreen that Harms Coral Reefs
Our oceans' beautiful, thriving coral reefs are dying at alarming rates and one state, in particular, is trying vehemently to stop that.
Hawaii currently has two Senate bills in motion to ban the use of sunscreen and other cosmetics that contains oxybenzone and octinoxate — two extremely harmful and toxic ingredients to the ocean’s coral reefs. Hawaii’s biggest coral reef, located along the coast of the Big Island, is no exception of compromise due to these ingredients found in a seemingly harmless bottle of sunscreen.
Oxybenzone and octinoxate are toxic to the coral reefs. Dying corals expel an algae that lives within them. Once that algae is expelled, the coral’s lifeline is essentially gone. They lose their color. The organisms they support are then, compromised, too.
Creators and supporters of the two bills — Senate bill 260 and Senate Bill 210 — are hoping to bring about legislative change that bans the use of sunscreen with oxybenzone and octinoxate, and that halts the irreversible damages to coral reefs. They're also hoping to bring awareness to the issue; travelers and beach-goers simply aren't aware that the sunscreen they slather on has very negative affects on the environment.
Senate Bill 260 bans businesses and individuals from knowingly selling products with the two harmful ingredients, and Senate Bill 210 bans the use of those harmful sunscreens on the state’s beaches.
So why is there legislative action in Hawaii and not yet elsewhere? Hawaii’s economy relies heavily on the health of the ocean, their beaches and their coral reefs, and more regions of the world, who are also dependant on those things to maintain tourism, for example, are beginning to pay close attention.
Companies that make and sell sunscreen with the toxic ingredients are arguing that there isn’t, in fact, scientific proof that they harm the coral reefs. However, other studies have proven that coral reefs reveal damage when oxybenzone exceeds a concentration of 62 parts per trillion. If that sounds confusing, the amount of oxybenzone or octinoxate it takes to damage coral roughly breaks down to one drop of water in more than six Olympic-sized pools.
And in Honolua Bay in Maui, oxybenzone was detected at nearly 2,000 parts per trillion.