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article imageHawaii wants to ban chemical sunscreens to save its coral reefs

By Karen Graham     Feb 25, 2017 in Environment
Last month, a Hawaiian state senator proposed a bill that would ban the sale of chemical sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate across the Islands, although presscriptions would be allowed.
Senator Will Espero introduced the bill to the State Congress on January 20, 2017. The bill would ban the two chemicals with the exception that they could be used with a prescription. Espero argued that the ban was important to preserving the state's tourism industry that relies heavily on its coral reef system.
Hawaii's legislation is already attracting interest in other regions of the world where coral reefs are important to local economies, such as Palau and the British Virgin Islands. However, manufacturers of the sunscreen products are arguing that more evidence is needed, reports Scientific American.
Close up of a crown-of-thorns starfish at Gardner Pinnacles in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National M...
Close up of a crown-of-thorns starfish at Gardner Pinnacles in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
And there is a good reason for the concern over the bleaching and death of our coral reefs. Fox News reports that 14,000 tons of sunscreen winds up in global coral reef systems annually.
And according to Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources, "researchers have found oxybenzone concentrations in some Hawaiian waters at more than 30 times the level considered safe for corals."
Hawaii would be making a strong political statement in banning the use of sunscreens containing the chemicals, particularly because there are some manufacturers who already make "reef-friendly" products that have been promoted by scientific and consumer concerns.
Coral reefs are one of Hawaii s biggest tourist draws.
Coral reefs are one of Hawaii's biggest tourist draws.
In fact, in 2015, a group of European Parliament members proposed a ban on oxybenzone in cosmetic products in the European Union, a measure that has stalled. But there is scientific research that Espero's bill draws on, including research done by US scientists led by Craig Downs, executive director of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Clifford, Virginia.
The Haereticus study was published in the journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology and showed that "oxybenzone causes deformities in coral larvae (planulae), making them unable to swim, settle out, and form new coral colonies. It also increases the rate at which coral bleaching occurs. This puts coral reef health at risk and reduces resiliency to climate change."
And perhaps, it is best to use gentler sunblocks on our skin, and this is good for us, good for the coral reefs and a win-win situation.
More about Hawaii, chemical sunscreens, Coral reefs, ban on sunswxreens, coral bleaching
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