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Hawaii Bans Sunscreens That Hurt Coral Reefs

In early May, Hawaii lawmakers passed a bill that would prohibit the sale of over-the-counter sunscreens containing chemicals that contribute to the destruction of the state’s coral reefs and other ocean life. Hawaii Governor David Ige signed the bill this week, making the ban official. Popular Mechanics reports: Hawaii is the first U.S. state to pass a legislation banning the sale of sunscreen containing [oxybenzone and octinoxate]. The bill will go into effect on January 1, 2021. “We are blessed in Hawaii to be home of some of the most beautiful natural resources on the planet,” Ige said at the bill signing, according to The Huffington Post. “But our natural environment is fragile and our own interaction with the Earth can have everlasting impacts, and this bill is a small first step worldwide to really caring about our corals and our reefs in a way that no one else anywhere in the world has done.”

A 2015 study conducted by scientists at the University of Central Florida found that oxybenzone, a common UV-filtering compound, kills the coral, causes DNA damage in the coral’s adult stage, and deforms the DNA in the larval stage, hindering its development. A separate 2015 study, published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology and conducted by biologist Craig Downs, also found that the chemicals produced water pollution and had damning effects on the coral reefs. In 2012, Women’s Health reported that oxybenzone and octinoxate may actually be harmful to humans as well, not just coral reefs. According to the publication, when the skin absorbs oxybenzone, it can cause an eczema-like allergic reaction and disrupt hormone levels. Octinoxate may damage skin cells and lead to premature aging.

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