Hawaii looks poised to become a world leader in the fight to protect coral reefs with a move that could leave sunscreen brands feeling the heat. A bill banning non-prescription sunscreens containing two chemicals believed to cause coral bleaching easily passed Hawaii's legislature Tuesday—there were just four votes against it in the House—meaning it now goes to Gov. David Ige's desk, reports NPR. If Ige signs the bill, Hawaii will become the first US state to impose a law banning oxybenzone and octinoxate, to take effect in 2021, reports the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. State Sen. Mike Gabbard, who introduced the bill, says it would also be "a first-in-the-world law." And "our island paradise, surrounded by coral reefs, is the perfect place to set the gold standard for the world to follow."
As oxybenzone and octinoxate are found in more than 3,500 sunscreen products, including from brands Hawaiian Tropic, Coppertone, and Banana Boat, critics fear a ban will encourage people to go without, increasing instances of skin cancer, per NPR and USA Today. But there are plenty of all-natural, Hawaiian-made sunscreens tourists can choose from, reports Outside. It quotes ecotoxicologist Craig Downs, who found 29,000 nanongrams of oxybenzone per liter of seawater at Oahu's Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve in 2017. "Anything above basically 50 nanograms per liter ... can induce toxicity in a variety of marine organisms," he says. A 2015 study cited by NPR notes oxybenzone "leaches the coral of its nutrients" and can "disrupt the development of fish and other wildlife."