Hawaii bans sale of sunscreens that harm coral

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Hawaii is now the first state in the nation to ban the sale of sunscreens with chemicals that could be harmful to the environment.

But Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, is expected to sign the bill this week, making Hawaii the first state to enact legislation created to protect marine ecosystems by banning such sunscreens. Scientific studies have shows that oxybenzone and octinoxate are toxic to corals and other marine life.

While environmentalists and most residents of Hawaii applaud approval of the legislation, some merchants have anxious the move may hurt at the cash register as about 70% of all common sunscreens now on the market would fall under this ban. "This legislation is a big step forward for the protection of our coral reefs, marine life and human health".

Roughly one-quarter of coral reefs worldwide are already considered damaged beyond fix, while another two-thirds live under serious threat, according to WWF Global. Although not all parties are pleased with the move, Ige felt it was one way to help protect the coral reefs of his home state which are known around the world for their natural beauty. The bill recognizes exceptions for people who are prescribed the sunscreens for medical needs. The prohibition takes effect in 2021. "By taking the lead on banning these risky chemicals in sunscreens, we've started a tidal wave which will help bring our coral reefs back to life", he told KHON2 News.

Come 2021, Hawaii beachgoers will have to furnish a doctor's prescription for sunscreen labels containing oxybenzone and octinoxate in order to purchase them in the state.

"This irresponsible action will make it more hard for families to protect themselves against the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays", the Consumer Healthcare Products Association said in a statement.

Johnson & Johnson, which owns Neutrogena, agreed with the position taken by its trade organization, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

Critics say there aren't enough independent studies supporting the assertion that the chemicals harm coral reefs.

Watch Gov. David Ige's full speech during the bill signing on Tuesday here.

This law does not include products marketed or intended for use as a cosmetic.