Hearing the phrase “ban sunscreen” may seem insane until you learn about the damage it does to coral reefs. Hawaii just passed a bill banning sunscreen that contains chemicals harming the marine ecosystem.

The chemicals in sunscreens being banned are oxybenzone and octinoxate, which the bill states “cause mortality in developing coral; increase coral bleaching that indicates extreme stress…and cause genetic damage to coral and other marine organisms.” The bill also says that the chemicals negatively affect wildlife like fish, seals, sea urchin, eels, and more. Top sunscreen brands will be affected by the ban — popular brands like Hawaiian Tropic, Coppertone and Banana Boat will be prohibited. 

A 2015 paper in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology journal said that about 14,000 tons of sunscreen enter the world’s coral reefs every year. The banned chemicals can be used in Hawaii — but only if you have a prescription from a licensed physician.

“Amazingly, this is a first-in-the-world law,” state Sen. Mike Gabbard, who introduced the bill, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “So, Hawaii is definitely on the cutting edge by banning these dangerous chemicals in sunscreens.”

The bill now has to be signed by Hawaii Governor David Ige, and upon signing it, the law will go into effect January 1, 2021. Hawaiian Airlines began offering its passengers free samples of natural sunscreens that don’t have oxybenzone and octinoxate. In April, the airline partnered with Raw Elements USA, a chemical-free sunscreen company.

Lonely Planet reports that hotel group Aqua-Aston and Honolulu’s Waikiki Aquarium are offering eco-friendly sunscreen to guests and installing sunscreen dispensers. Hawaii State Senator Will Espero expressed his support of the ban on Twitter.

“We passed SB2571 which bans the sale of sunscreen with oxybenzone and octinoxate which harms our coral reefs,” he said. “Hawaii is the first state in the nation to pass a measure of this magnitude. The world was watching.  We delivered. Preserve and protect our ocean environment!”

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