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05 • 28 • 2019

Florida Sunscreen Preemption

In early 2019, Surfrider Florida activists became aware of several bad bills that sought to preempt local reef-protection ordinances that regulate sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. In fact, the City of Key West passed a local ban on those chemicals just months before the Florida Legislature moved to preempt such ordinances.

Coral reefs are immensely economically valuable to Florida, and to the Florida Keys particularly. NOAA estimates that Florida’s coral reef have an asset value of $8.5 billion and are responsible for 70,400 full and part-time jobs. Healthy reefs drive economic and recreational opportunities for snorkeling/diving, wildlife viewing, recreational sports fishing, and more. Coral reefs also provide protection from hurricanes and storm events. One recent study estimated that coral reefs may reduce wave energy by up 97%. Sometimes referred to as the “rainforests of the sea”, coral reefs provide homes for innumerable species, including many important recreational and subsistence fisheries species. Unfortunately, coral reefs are increasingly suffering from human impacts- from warming seas and ocean acidification, to disease, to invasive species.

Oxybenzone and octinoxate are two ingredients believed to contribute to damage coral, making it more susceptible to disease and bleaching. According to the National Park Service, 14,000 tons of sunscreen enters coral reefs every year. These chemicals are believed to be one of the contributing factors to coral reef destruction. Most popular sunscreen brands are known to contain these dangerous chemicals.

That is why it is so critically important to take action on the destructive effects of oxybenzone and octinoxate. Oxybenzone is toxic to coral reefs at just 8 parts per billion (ppb).3 To put that into perspective, 1 part per billion is the same as a single drop of water in an Olympic size swimming pool.

On May 8, 2019, thanks to incredible work by our Surfrider Florida Chapters the we were able to stop these bad preemption bills from moving forward!