When you wear sunscreen, your primary goal is to protect your skin. Unfortunately, two chemicals found in many varieties of the burn-preventing lotion—oxybenzone and octinoxate—can be detrimental to the fish population and to coral reefs, Time reports. The compounds increase the rate of bleaching—which leaves coral algae-less and therefore unprotected—and make regeneration impossible. That’s why Hawaii is taking an important stance to protect its waters.
The Aloha State will likely soon be the first in the country to ban sunscreens that are harmful to coral reefs, according to Honolulu Star Advertiser. On May 1, state lawmakers nearly unanimously passed a bill (only four House members voted against it) that would make selling sunscreen that contains oxybenzone and octinoxate illegal. And if Governor David Ige signs it, the ban will officially go into effect on January 1, 2021. This law will help keep the already-endangered underwater ecosystem safe, including the fish populations that are threatened by the chemicals as well.
“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.” —Mike Gabbard, Hawaii state senator
“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,” state senator Mike Gabbard (D, Kapolei-Makakilo) says. “This will make a huge difference in protecting our coral reefs, marine life, and human health.”
Right now, this ban would mean you could only legally buy sunscreen containing the toxic chemicals with a doctor’s prescription in the state. But the legislation has limits: It won’t affect online purchases and wouldn’t prevent you from stashing a hazardous travel-size sunscreen in your suitcase when you visit. Still, sticking to natural products isn’t just preferable for the environment, but it’s also a much smarter choice for your own body, too. So, consider making the commitment even when you’re not soaking up vitamin-d-rich Hawaiian rays.
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