Yesterday, the Key West City Commission unanimously voted to ban the sale of sunscreens that contain two ingredients — oxybenzone and octinoxate — that a growing body of scientific evidence says harm coral reefs. The measure must now be reviewed again by the commission before it becomes law. The second vote is scheduled for February 5th. Miami Herald reports: Environmental researchers have published studies showing how these two ingredients, which accumulate in the water from bathers or from wastewater discharges, can damage coral reefs through bleaching and harming the corals’ DNA. In some instances, the corals can die. A Feburary 2016 study in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology examining the impact of oxybenzone in corals in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands concluded that the sunscreen ingredient “poses a hazard to coral reef conservation and threatens the resiliency of coral reefs to climate change.”
Last year, Hawaii banned the sale or distribution of any sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, a measure that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021. It was the first state in the nation to implement such a ban. In Florida, the website for the South Florida Reef Ambassador Initiative, which falls under the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, tells divers to “Avoid sunscreens with Oxybenzone and Avobenzone. The benzones are compounds that are lethal to coral reproduction in very small amounts.” Experts who have studied the issue say sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are minerals, also block ultraviolet rays. They create a barrier on the skin that deflect the sun’s rays .
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