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A mix of reef fish are pictured at French Frigate Shoals, an atoll in northwestern Hawaii.
Mark Sullivan/NOAA Fisheries Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program
Environment

Hawaii Lawmakers OK Ban on All Sunscreens Harmful to Coral Reef

By Joanna Prisco for Global Citizen

A new bill may make Hawaii the first state in the United States to completely ban sales of sunscreens containing reef-harming chemicals.

Major brands will have to adapt their products to the new ingredient restrictions or stay off the island, according to The Washington Post

Take Action: Fight Waste to Protect Our Oceans

The proposed bill, SB 2471, states that oxybenzone and octinoxate, “have significant harmful impacts on Hawaii’s marine environment and residing ecosystems,” and should not be allowed on store shelves.

The bill was passed by state lawmakers on Tuesday and is now heading to the desk of Gov. David Ig.

Some opponents of the measure have argued that alternative sunscreens have questionable efficacy and high price points.

"Right now the cost of these so-called reef friendly products ranges anywhere from two times to six to eight times more than what's on most of the shelves now," said Karen Glanz, a professor at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, in an interview with a local CBS affiliate. 

Read more: This Hotel Chain is Giving Out Sunscreens That Protect Coral Reefs

Champions of the bill feel the environment is worth the cost.

“Hawaii is definitely on the cutting edge by banning these dangerous chemicals in sunscreens,” State Sen. Mike Gabbard, who introduced the bill, said in an email to the Star Advertiser. “When you think about it, our island paradise, surrounded by coral reefs, is the perfect place to set the gold standard for the world to follow. This will make a huge difference in protecting our coral reefs, marine life, and human health.”

Read more: The UK Just Joined the Fight To Protect the World’s Coral Reefs

If approved, products restricted by the bill would still be available to those who have a prescription from a licensed health-care provider.

Gov. Ige is expected to sign the bill into law, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2021.

Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals, which call for innovations to protect the environment. You can take action on this issue.