Hawaii Bans Sunscreens That Harm Coral Reefs

As of the first of May, the Aloha state became the first in the country to ban sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. Once it receives the signature of Governor Ige, the ban will be enforced in 2021.

The two chemicals in question have both been shown to cause coral bleaching. Coral bleaching results in a decrease of biodiversity and the reef’s ability to function. Scientists have tracked the declining health of reefs over the past 20 year and observed coral bleaching (and the chemicals in sunscreen causing it) to be an increasingly prominent factor, prompting the Hawaiian government to take action.

In a market driven economy, consumers have a choice when purchasing everyday items like sunscreen. The hope is that consumers would make the ethical choice to support brands that do not use chemicals that are harmful to the environment; this was not the case in Hawaii, ultimately leading to the government taking action to try to preserve their harmed reefs.

However, it should also be expected of companies to be mindful with the products they use and how they may affect the environment. When corporations do not comply with this standard, consumers can and should put pressure on them to change their ways. When their source of revenue, their customers, shows distaste in their practice, they will more times than not change their practice. Recent history has shown this to be true with corporations like UK McDonalds phasing out their plastic use due to increasing public pressure. In these cases, the customer-- not the government-- is responsible for corporations changing.

If your sunscreen does contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, there are multiple eco friendly alternatives you can shop.  Bask in the sun without polluting our waters by supporting brands that use ethical ingredients in their sunscreen.

Alana Bannan