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Hawaii gets serious about sunscreen

(Fernando de Noronha)
(Fernando de Noronha)

Hawaii's state legislature has passed a law banning the sale of most commonly used sunscreens in an effort to protect the state's coral reefs which have been found to be vulnerable to some chemicals found in the products. 

So what does that really mean? For starters, if Hawaii's governor signs the bill into law you won't be able to find sunscreens sold in Hawaii containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. These chemicals have been found to damage reefs. From livescience.com:

Two sunscreen chemicals, oxybenzone and octinoxate, have been shown to damage corals in a variety of ways. According to 2016 research in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, which John Fauth, a biologist at the University of Central Florida, helped conduct, oxybenzone damages coral DNA, causes coral to bleach, and even prompts free-swimming coral larvae to excrete a hard skeleton prematurely, entombing themselves. The bleaching may be the result of the sunscreen compounds promoting viral infections in the coral, according to a 2008 study. The chemicals are also endocrine disruptors, Fauth said, so they damage corals' ability to reproduce.

The problem can be especially bad in lagoons or coves where chemicals can quickly become concentrated from large numbers of people snorkeling or swimming in them. 

Zinc and titanium dioxide sunscreens will still be sold. But these have fallen out of favor in recent decades because they leave a white film on most people's skin which a lot of people think is gross, and unattractive. 

The law would go into effect in 2021 and those with a doctor's prescription will still be able to get sunscreen with the banned chemicals. 

But what is unclear is how it will be enforced when it comes to travelers visiting from other states and other countries where no ban is in place. Hawaiian Airlines is helping to get the word out by offering up free samples of natural sunscreens which aren't harmful to reefs on its island bound flights.  


Related Photos
(Fernando de Noronha)

(Fernando de Noronha)

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Matt Patterson

Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun.... Read more ›

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