Key West Bans Sale of Certain Sunscreens

Hawaii also restricts products with certain chemicals
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 7, 2019 6:00 PM CST
A beachgoer applies sunscreen Tuesday in Key West, Fla.   (Steve Panariello/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

(Newser) – Wear sunscreen, sure, but not just any kind—especially when you're in the Florida Keys. Key West lawmakers voted 6-1 Tuesday to ban the sale of sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate, the New York Times reports. Studies have shown that the chemicals are damaging to coral reefs. "Our coral has been under attack by a number of stressors," Mayor Teri Johnston said. "We just thought if there was one thing we could do, to take one of the stressors away, it was our responsibility to do so." The ban will take effect in 2021. The environment and tourism, the mayor said, rely on a healthy reef. Sunscreens with and without oxybenzone and octinoxate, which help protect the skin from UV radiation, are sold now, per the Washington Post. But research has shown that skin care products with those chemicals can wash off in the water, eventually hurting the reefs.

While Hawaii and the nation of Palau, in the Western Pacific, have enacted similar measures, there are arguments against the movement. An article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology last summer called for more research. Some dermatologists warn that the bans could increase skin cancer rates, and sunscreen manufacturers don't agree that their products damage reefs. In the meantime, Hawaii has compiled a list of sunscreens considered safe for reefs. And the National Park Service recommends using products with titanium oxide or zinc oxide instead of oxybenzone and octinoxate. (Are we overdoing it on sunscreen?)

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