Doctors frequently tell their patients to wear sunscreen every day, and that’s even when they aren’t going to the beach. Vacationers in Hawaii, though, are going to find that over 70% of sunscreens are illegal to buy in Hawaii as the result of a new law the governor there is expected to sign.
Most sunscreens contain oxybenzone (70%) and octinoxate (8%, frequently labeled as octyl methoxycinnamate). These chemicals are considered safe and effective against skin cancer, but there is concern that these chemicals kill coral reefs, although research supporting that concern has been done in lab conditions rather than through observations in the ocean.
Hyatt Regency Maui
It’s unclear how much of a difference this law, which goes into effect in 2021, will make protecting coral,
- The ban is only on the sale of these sunscreens in Hawaii, tourists will still bring their own sunscreen from home (not least of which because sunscreen – like many products – can be expensive to buy not least of which because of the perverse effects of the Jones Act).
- Oxybenzone will still come “from other sources, such as wastewater discharge from ships”
Hawaii’s stated concern is that degrading coral reefs will reduce tourism. The ban will drive up demand for mineral-based products that “reflect the rays away from the skin.” The flipside of course is with fewer sunscreens available, and potentially more expensive, more people will go without sunscreen and increase cancer risk.
The Caribbean island of Bonaire is banning these same sunscreens starting in 2021.