Hawaii wants to ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate chemicals after studies have shown that the two compounds are found to have damaging effects on the coral reefs. Hawaiian state senator, Will Espero, heads the proposed bill and says that the ban is essential to preserve Hawaii's tourism industry.
The Congress has recognized the utmost importance of the island's coral reefs as a driving factor that influences the arrival of tourists to Hawaii. However, the two chemicals are expected to cause coral bleaching, according to a 2008 research. Furthermore, they also serve as an endocrine disruptor to other aquatic life.
Fox News reported that about 14,000 tons of sunscreen damage the reefs of Hawaii each year. The Department of Land and Natural Resources stated that some waters of the island, especially in the beaches of Maui, have 30 times more oxybenzone concentrations which are already considered as dangerous for the reefs.
Executive Director of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Clifford, Virginia Craig Downs told Scientific American, "In many geographic locations, oxybenzone and sunscreen pollution poses a serious environmental hazard." Still, many scientists aren't convinced that sunscreen alone can induce a quite damaging effect on the corals.
Head of the Coral Reef Laboratory at the University of Southampton, Jörg Wiedenmann, for instance, have realized that sunscreen is a pollutant to the waters, but banning the product will not solve coral bleaching. He said that there are other factors like temperature changes, overfishing, and coastal runoffs still have impacts on the destruction of coral reefs.
To beach goers, buying physical or mineral sunscreens may be a better option than oxybenzone and octinoxate lotions. Mineral sunscreens like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide were found not to harm sunscreens.
But before dipping into water or using any kind of sunscreen in Hawaii, tourists should now present their medical prescriptions and letters requesting to use them.
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