Legislators in the U.S. state of Hawaii are trying to ban the sale of sunscreens that contain two UV-filtering chemicals after studies suggested that they harm coral reefs.
On 20 January, Hawaii state senator Will Espero introduced a bill which would ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octanoate in Hawaii (except under medical prescription) to the state Congress. Espero argues that a ban is important to preserve the state’s tourism industry because Hawaii relies heavily on tourists attracted by its coral reefs.
The bill is already attracting attention from other regions with economies reliant on reefs, including Palau and the British Virgin Islands, Espero says. But manufacturers argue that more evidence is needed to warrant a ban.
A bar in the state of Hawaii would be the strongest political measure yet taken against the chemicals – although some manufacturers already sell “reef-friendly” sunscreens without them, produced in response to scientific and consumer concerns. “Since there are eco-friendly sunscreens on the market now, a total ban hurts no one,” Espero argues.
In November 2015, a group of European Parliament members proposed a motion to ban oxybenzone in cosmetic products throughout the European Union, but that legislation has stalled.