Hawaii just passed a bill that would make it the first US state – as well as the first place in the world – to ban most sunscreens.
Chemicals used in over 3,500 sunscreen products – oxybenzone (aka Benzophenone-3) and octinoxate – "have significant harmful impacts on Hawaii's marine environment and residing ecosystems, including coral reefs that protect Hawaii's shoreline," says the bill that Hawaii lawmakers passed on Tuesday. If signed by Governor David Ige, the sunscreen ban will become law by January 1, 2021.
"Amazingly, this is a first-in-the-world law," state Sen. Mike Gabbard, who introduced the bill, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. "So, Hawaii is definitely on the cutting edge by banning these dangerous chemicals in sunscreens."
The chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are used in more than 3,500 of the world's most popular sunscreen products, including Hawaiian Tropic, Coppertone and Banana Boat, would be prohibited.
As NPR reported, a 2015 study of coral reefs in Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Israel determined oxybenzone "leaches the coral of its nutrients and bleaches it white. It can also disrupt the development of fish and other wildlife." Even a small drop is enough to damage delicate corals.
At the time, researchers estimated about 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotions end up in coral reefs around the world each year.
Of course, opposition comes from sunscreen makers such as Bayer, who makes Coppertone.
Prescription sunscreens that contain the harmful chemicals would still be permitted under the new law.