In an effort to protect coral reefs, the State of Hawaii is set to ban certain popular chemical sunscreens. Later this week, Governor David Ige is expected to sign a bill introduced by State Senator Mark Goddard that will make Hawaii the first state in the country to ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. While effective at protecting users from UV rays that can cause skin cancer, the two chemicals are also believed to be responsible for bleaching coral reefs.
The bill will ban the sale and distribution of oxybenzone and octinoxate sunscreens starting in 2021. This includes popular brands like Banana Boat, Coppertone, and (ironically) Hawaiian Tropic.
Under the current bill, tourists can still bring the otherwise banned sunscreens from home. While that might sound like an escape hatch for worried travelers, the law is being put into effect for a good reason. Coral reefs are essential for ocean health and marine life. We shouldn’t have to mention that a big reason tourists visit Hawaii in the first place is to see the island’s stunning coral reefs! The harmful chemicals contained in popular sunscreens are released by swimmers and beachgoers into the water and kill the very coral reefs that visitors are there to see.
If you want to use a safe sunscreen that doesn’t harm coral reefs, mineral-based sunscreens are a good alternative. Sunscreens using zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to reflect the sun are more difficult to remove in the water and are some of the best options for swimmers.