If you’re heading to Hawaii, or any other tropical paradise, to soak up the sun this winter, you might want to leave the sunscreen behind. It sounds counterintuitive after years of being told to slather on sunscreen to protect our skin from dangerous UV rays, but now research is showing that human use of sunscreen could be seriously damaging tropical coral reefs.
Senator Will Espero presented a bill to the state congress on January 20 that would ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate (except under medical prescriptions) in Hawaii. Espero argued that a ban is crucial to maintaining the health of coral reefs – an tourist attraction on which Hawaii relies.
Sunscreens use filters, either chemical or mineral, to block out the sun’s radiation. The chemical filters are most damaging, washing off the skin into the water while swimming, surfing, spearfishing, or even using a beach shower. Researchers have measured oxybenzone in Hawaiian waters at concentrations that are 30 times higher than the level considered safe for corals. According to Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources: Continue reading