After having a first-hand look at the impacts of dangerous chemicals on marine environment and wildlife, the Hawaiian island of Maui has proposed a bill preventing the sale and use of SPF sunscreen containing oxybenzone and octinoxate within the region.
Maui, like the rest of the state of Hawaii, is heavily reliant on its natural beauty to attract visitors all over the world. It is known as a great spot for snorkeling due to the presence of its coral reefs. However, recently Maui’s famous coral reefs have been bleaching and dying. There are many factors that cause coral bleaching, such as high ocean temperatures, but studies have determined that corals exposed to oxybenzone and octinoxate, popular sunscreen actives, exhibit signs of bleaching as well. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are known to be toxic to coral reefs at 62-280 parts per trillion (ppt) and 10-220 ppt respectively. Samples, taken by Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, of snorkeling spots around Maui have found levels of up to 4000 ppt oxybenzone and 1500 ppt octinoxate.
The ban is widely supported by residents as they believe it would help protect coral reefs from bleaching. Also, oxybenzone and octinoxate are also known to affect the development and endocrine systems of fish. Additionally, the risk of spreading these chemicals into the ocean isn’t exclusive to sunscreen-wearers at the beach but also at home when it is being washed off in the shower.
Regardless of the strong support of this ban, there are issues to be dealt with within the region, for one, the state of Hawaii regulates ocean-related activities and not the region of Maui alone. Moreover, the FDA has approved both oxybenzone and octinoxate safe for use in sunscreens.
Exemptions from this ban are prescription SPF sunscreens containing oxybenzone or octinoxate. The bill suggested the use of alternative sunscreen actives such as zinc and titanium which provide broad spectrum protection from the sun. Many are hoping this ban will slow the decline of the coral reefs as the entire state of Hawaii is interested in implementing the same ban across all its islands.
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