To Save Coral Reefs, Hawaii on Verge of Banning Sunscreen

by on May 9, 2018 · 17 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach

In order to save the coral reefs and other marine life that surrounds Hawaii, state legislators there just passed a measure banning sunscreen. In particular they want to ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate by 2021. The governor has yet to sign the bill, making it law.

Scientists have determined oxybenzone and octinoxate can be toxic to coral – a vital part of the ocean ecosystem. Only with a medical prescription, would people be able to purchase sunscreen with the chemicals. Plus the measure itself doesn’t ban online purchases or does it ban tourists from bringing their own to Hawaii.

But sunscreen makers would be forced to change their formulas or be banned from selling the lotions in Hawaii.

If Governor David Ige signs the measure, It would make Hawaii the first state to enact a ban on the chemicals; Ige reportedly has not indicated what he will do.

And of course, there’s pressure from those who profit off the $2 billion market for sun care products in the country on Ige not to sign it. State legislators tried a similar thing a year ago but it failed.

Hawaii state senator Donna Mercado Kim, a  Democrat who introduced the measure said it’s  “a first step to help our reef and protect it from deterioration,” and “hopefully, other jurisdictions will look at this legislation and follow suit.

Craig Downs is a scientist whose 2015 peer-reviewed study found oxybenzone was a threat to coral reefs, stated:

“This is the first real chance that local reefs have to recover. Lots of things kill coral reefs, but we know oxybenzone prevents them from coming back.”

Downs added the toxic chemical also affects sea urchins and kills algae, a source of food for sea turtles. As much as 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion ends up in coral reefs annually, he has found. He also stated many sunscreen manufacturers already sell “reef-friendly” sunscreens, such as Edgewell Personal Care, the maker of Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen lotions. They make products free of the two chemicals, the company says, and”will continue to ensure we comply with all relevant regulations concerning oxybenzone and octinoxate.”

Dr. Yuanan Lu, a professor and director of the environmental health laboratory at the University of Hawaii, applauds the bill. He said:

“We have so many problems with coral bleaching, and there is already so much contamination. We have so many people who come to Hawaii, and some of the sunscreen ingredients can be toxic, harmful to marine systems.”

As part of the corporate pushback Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, stated:

“What we’re really concerned with is that there aren’t very many independent studies out there that have gone for peer review.”

She’s concerned consumers won’t buy sunscreen products from local brick-and-mortar stores.  Also opposed to the bill is the American Chemistry Council as its concerns are about the dangers of sun exposure.




{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

RB May 9, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Even peer reviewed studies must be repeated in other labs before acceptance.
Thirty plus years ago in a peer reviewed study by a group of scientist in Utah claimed fusion in a laboratory bottle. Of course the claims could not be repeated and were the result a flaw in the experiments design.


matisyahuserious May 9, 2018 at 1:54 pm

the hard, variously colored, calcareous skeleton secreted by certain marine polyps.

an enclosure or pen for horses, cattle, etc.


Geoff Page May 9, 2018 at 2:25 pm

There always has to be one in every group. How about a nice long article of interest from you, matisyahuserious, that we can all check for grammar and spelling?


matisyahuserious May 9, 2018 at 2:30 pm

i felt as though i was helping, by pointing out a spelling error – did it come across as an attack or some sort of claim of superiority?


Geoff Page May 9, 2018 at 3:15 pm

Correcting spelling and grammar mistakes in The Rag is something that a lot of people seem to take great pleasure in doing, perhaps your motives were good ones but it was pretty clear to all of us what the subject matter was without the correction. If you look at the huge volume of material that Frank writes himself, I think he could be excused for a few mistakes here and there. If the error is serious and might affect comprehension of the story, I’m sure even Frank would appreciate the help but mistakes like this are not in that category. And, maybe it would have been better to simply point out the error rather than offer two definitions for the two similar words as if Frank or the rest of us wouldn’t know the difference. You can also email The Rag and point out an error privately.


matisyahuserious May 9, 2018 at 3:18 pm

thanks for the clarity, geoff! i had looked for an email for frank, but when i didnt see one, i posted what i hoped was an innocuous message about usage, but i totally get where you are coming from and won’t be ambiguous or inconsiderate hereabouts again.


Frank Gormlie May 10, 2018 at 10:04 am

Anyhoo, I did make the corrections. The worst one was in the headline – ouch! In defense, half of the words in the article were correct.


rick callejon May 9, 2018 at 2:14 pm

ride ’em cowboy


Geoff Page May 9, 2018 at 5:03 pm

Well then, to be fair, I should apologize for misinterpreting your motive for that comment. I guess I’ve seen too many like that to automatically assume someone was really trying to be helpful. In the future, the email address is at the bottom of the page if you hit the “Contact” button.


rick callejon May 9, 2018 at 7:51 pm

Viva pedants!


ToolPusher May 10, 2018 at 3:13 am

There is not a wide spread consensuses that these chemicals are actually contributing to coral bleaching (other factors like global warming or other sources of pollution certainly are, but, to what extent, if any, are these chemicals contributing). Whereas, sunscreen does protect people from burns, skin damage, and cancer. There are alternative sunscreens that don’t contain these chemicals, but, is there enough evidence of an environmental disaster to prohibit one of the most popular ways to protect yourself from cancer. Consensuses is not always necessary, but, when making public policy that could damage people’s health and certainly will have economic consequences, a consensuses or at least more data should be sought. This reminds me of the current eye-rolling and head shaking case regarding coffee as a cause of cancer and therefore requiring warnings in California that is working its way through the courts; only the sunscreen chemicals might actually turn out to be harmful to the environment where as in California that are not going to ban coffee but both are symptom of politicizing science. Science should be used to help make good public policy, but, it should be based on wide spread consciences among the relevant scientific community (like in the case of global warming) and not a one-off study or experiment that is then trumpeted to fulfill someone’s agenda; which may only serve a narrow interest, but, undermines attempts to use scientific consensuses to form good policy. Sometimes we just need to use good common sense. (And if you need another reason why Trump got elected, it’s things like these).


Tyler May 10, 2018 at 5:50 am

Why the click bait headline? Most stores on Oahu already have been selling sunscreens without those chemicals, including ABC stores. The ban is likely so they can prevent honkey tourists from flying in with those brands


Frank Gormlie May 10, 2018 at 10:05 am

Our headline was very reflective of all other media’s ledes on this story.


Tyler May 11, 2018 at 5:37 am

A vast majority of the news media identified that it was coral damaging sunscreens in their headline. Other than CNN of course, if that’s your model to aim for Frank


Geoff Page May 10, 2018 at 3:15 pm

Um, you do realize that ALL headlines are “click bait” right? They are all written to draw readers into the stories. The pejorative use of the term refers to websites that use false images or titles to draw people in like photos of well endowed women that lead the clicker to a site that has nothing to do with that. This story’s headline did not do that.


Tyler May 11, 2018 at 5:39 am

The pejorative term is for headlines that are slightly or very misleading and/or hyperbolic. I’m well aware of this but thanks for the refresh. This is slightly misleading. But yes I know you must come to his rescue Robin!


Geoff Page May 11, 2018 at 3:03 pm

My old boss had a good line for this point of yours, Tyler, it’s like picking fly shit out of the pepper. Seems you’re the only one who understands your own mind. And Frank doesn’t need rescuing, he’s plenty capable of taking care of himself when it comes to a Penguin.


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