In June, the state legislature passed the nation’s first ever statewide ban on sunscreens that contain chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are known to harm coral reefs and local fish. On July 3, the governor of Hawai'i signed this bill into law, which will require that every Hawaiian island stops selling sunscreen that contains these two chemicals by January 1, 2021.
The Surfrider Hawai'i chapters have been advocating for this type of coral reef protection for years. In 2016, Surfrider's Hawaii Chapters launched a statewide campaign to ban the toxic chemical oxybenzone. The Surfrider Foundation’s five chapters in Hawaii and our extensive network of supporters are concerned about the damage chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate are doing to our reef system, which annually generates about $800 million in gross revenues to the state of Hawaii. We are part of the Hawaii Reef and Ocean Coalition, which was formed last year by concerned coral reef scientists, educators, government officials and environmental groups, and one of our top priorities is banning sunscreens with oxybenzone.
Along with damaging coral DNA and inhibiting its ability to reproduce, oxybenzone causes deformities in coral reefs, makes them more susceptible to bleaching, and initiates endocrine disruption. In 2016, scientific panels held at the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) and the International Union for the Conservation for Nature (IUCN) in Honolulu both showed a consensus that Oxybenzone is toxic to corals and recommended a ban on sunscreen products that contain it. There have also been studies showing that this chemical and its many derivatives are toxic to human health as well. It’s estimated that 14,000 tons of sunscreen enter the world's marine waters every year, so we have to take the precautionary approach to protect our reefs from these toxic chemicals.
Learn more about this important victory here.
Surfrider Hawaii, Hawaii Reef and Ocean Coalition, and Governor Ige at the signing ceremony