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Chemical Regulation

Hawaii lawmakers pass ban on sunscreen chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate

by Cheryl Hogue
May 11, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 20

Photo shows fish swimming over a coral reef in Hawaii.
Credit: Shutterstock
Hawaii lawmakers want to protect the state's coral reefs from potential damage from sunscreens.
Chemical structures of oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Hawaii’s legislature earlier this month passed a bill that would prohibit the sale of sunscreens containing either of two compounds as of Jan. 1, 2021. According to the measure, octinoxate, which is also known as octyl methoxycinnamate, and oxybenzone “have significant harmful impacts on Hawaii’s marine environment and residing ecosystems, including coral reefs.” Some published studies have linked oxybenzone to deformities in coral larvae and linked both sunscreen chemicals to coral bleaching, a condition in which stressed coral lose symbiotic algae. Hawaii’s government in 2016 began asking swimmers, surfers, and divers to avoid using sunscreens with oxybenzone. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents sunscreen makers, opposes the bill. “There is no scientific evidence that under naturally occurring environmental conditions, sunscreen ingredients are contributing to coral degradation,” the group told Hawaii lawmakers last year. Gov. David Ige (D) has not indicated whether he would sign the legislation, which would exempt prescription sunscreens.


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