Erupting Volcano, Sunscreen Ban Make Hawaii An Inferno 

Hawaii outlaws sunscreen | Visitors in for a hellish experience

(April Fulton, NPR) Hawaii Gov. David Ige is expected this week to sign the world’s first ban on the sale of popular sunscreens due to concerns they may be harming one of the state’s biggest attractions — coral reefs.

While it doesn’t kick in until 2021, the move is already prompting pushback.

That’s because up to 70 percent of sunscreens on the U.S. market contain oxybenzone, one of the ingredients targeted by the ban. Up to 8 percent contain another targeted ingredient, octinoxate, also known as octyl methoxycinnamate.

“We’re taking away a product, or products that have been shown to be safe and effective” against skin cancer and sun damage, says Jay Sirois, director of regulatory affairs for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

Indeed, both chemicals have had the Food and Drug Administration’s OK for decades, but in recent years, some environmental research has suggested octinoxate can contribute to coral bleaching and that oxybenzone exposure leads to the death of baby coral.

Studies by Craig Downs, a biologist who runs the nonprofit Haereticus Environmental Lab, and his colleagues inspired Hawaii lawmakers to propose the ban to protect the reefs.

He says the chemical kills juvenile coral. “When they come across oxybenzone, they just encase themselves in their own skeleton, effectively killing them,” he says. They sink to the bottom of the ocean and die.

Not everyone is convinced. Downs primarily observed the coral in a lab, and in the ocean, there are many more factors that contribute to coral death, like pollution and wastewater discharge from ships.

Other tourist destinations are considering similar bans to protect their reefs, says Downs. The Caribbean island of Bonaire has already begun to follow suit.

Beverly Hills dermatologist Lisa Chipps is worried that Hawaii’s ban is premature and will confuse consumers who have been told to use sunscreen daily. Read the full story at NPR. 

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