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Legislation

Hawaii lawmakers pass ban on sunscreen chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate

Protecting coral reefs is the legislation’s goal

by Cheryl Hogue
May 8, 2018

Hawaii is on the verge of banning two chemicals used in sunscreens, oxybenzone and octinoxate, to protect its coral reefs. The compounds absorb ultraviolet light.

The Hawaii State Legislature earlier this month passed a bill that would prohibit the sale of sunscreens containing either of the 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 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. “While we applaud attempts to limit coral decline in Hawaii, we have strong reservations of doing so by limiting access to an ingredient which has proven benefits against deadly skin cancers,” the group told Hawaiian lawmakers last year. “There is no scientific evidence that under naturally-occurring environmental conditions, sunscreen ingredients are contributing to coral degradation.”

Gov. David Ige (D) has not indicated whether he would sign the legislation, which would exempt prescription sunscreens.

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Comments
Mark B (May 12, 2018 5:27 PM)
Never in all my days as the chief pharmaceutical chemist at one of the worlds largest companies have I heard of such poppycock regarding coral reefs. There is no peer reviewed data to support a negative impact by these sunscreens (which by the way, we manufacture most of the world's Oxybenzone). I doubt that any good will come of this legislation !
DENIS DUDLEY (June 24, 2018 9:59 AM)
Those with vested interests like this chemist ignore at our peril The Precautionary Principle. As a physician I also practice the first precept "primum non nocere" - - first do no harm. Oxybenzone is found in blood, amniotic fluid and breast milk, it contains a benzene ring inimical to any mammalian cell, and has albeit weak estrogenic properties- it is a UVB filter and appears in sunscreens along with avobenzone- its structural cousin - to give UVB-BIASED sunscreens. These products have little chance of preventing skin cancer as they transmit 10 times more UVA than UVB - a similar radiation profile to the harmful tanning bed. Let consumers decide whether they wish to pollute their bodies with no real benefit. Most of us- prudent parents, expectant mothers etc. will err on the side of caution. Better large insoluble filters are available - safer for us and the environment, with ultra UVA protection- better suited to prevent skin cancer and photoaging.

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