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Hawaii legislature passes ban on sunscreen to protect coral reefs

By
Allen Cone
Hawaii could become the first state to bans sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate that are believed to harm marine life and coral reefs. Photo by Warren Goldswain/Shutterstock
Hawaii could become the first state to bans sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate that are believed to harm marine life and coral reefs. Photo by Warren Goldswain/Shutterstock

May 2 (UPI) -- Hawaii's legislature has sent a bill to the governor that bans sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate believed to harm marine life and coral reefs.

The legislation, which was approved Tuesday by the House and Senate, would prohibit the sale and distribution of sunscreen with the active ingredients in the top-rated brands on the island "without prescription from a licensed healthcare provider."

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According to the legislation, two chemicals "contained significant harmful impacts on Hawaii's marine environment and residing ecosystems, including coral reefs that protect Hawaii's shoreline."

If it is signed by Democratic Gov. David Ige it would into effect on Jan. 1, 2021, on the islands. It would become the first state to ban the products.

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"Amazingly, this is a first-in-the-world law," Democratic Sen. Mike Gabbard, who introduced the bill, told the Honolulu 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."

Earlier this year, a study published in the journal Science earlier reported the frequency of severe coral bleaching events has increased from once every 25 to 30 years in the early 1980s to once every six years in 2016.

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Henry Lim, immediate past president of the American Academy of Dermatology, told USA Today this ban could "create significant confusion." Lim and other critics say people would be discouraged from wearing sunscreen altogether and skin cancer cases would increase.

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Safe options include organic compounds, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

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