A common sunscreen ingredient called oxybenzone has been linked to coral bleaching in Hawaii. A state bill in Hawaii would ban the sale of sunscreen and personal care products containing oxybenzone.
Goddess Garden, a manufacturer of natural sunscreen and skin care products, not only supports the bill but provided testimony for it. Shannon Kyllo, Goddess Garden Communications Specialist, told Naturally Savvy that the bill, SB 1150 was introduced by a “group of senators from Hawaii…to ban reef-harming sunscreen chemicals like oxybenzone from being used or sold in marine-life conservation districts.” She pointed out that the original bill also required that anyone who operates in a marine-life district had to inform their customers about the harmful use of sunscreen chemicals to coral reefs and that they are prohibited from use. Goddess Garden “wholeheartedly supported this bill,” she said.
The bill “has been amended several times, and was drastically changed on April 6th,” Kyllo said. And as the bill now stands, it requires more research on how oxybenzone and other sunscreen chemicals affect coral reefs. “The bill was amended despite the significant research that already exists, and that was the basis for the bill’s introduction,” she explained.
A study published in 2016 in the journal, Environmental Contamination and Toxicology found that oxybenzone is “an emerging contaminant of concern in marine environments.” Researchers looked at the effects of the chemical on coral reefs and discovered that they pose a “hazard” to conserving coral reefs and threaten the resiliency of them to climate change.
Sunscreen chemicals “wash off swimmers, surfers, paddlers, spearfishers, divers, and other ocean users,” the state of Hawaii’s Division of Aquatic Resources explains on its website. Just simply applying a sunscreen with oxybenzone and using a beach shower can cause chemicals to wash into the ocean. Researchers found oxybenzone concentrations in Hawaiian waters 30 times over levels considered safe for corals.
Not only are sunscreen chemicals harmful to coral reefs, but they are toxic for humans. A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that 96.8 percent of Americans are contaminated with oxybenzone. Other studies have found that it penetrates the skin. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) cites concerns that oxybenzone causes biochemical or cellular changes, endocrine disruption, bioaccumulation, and enhanced skin absorption.
The state of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources is already asking people to avoid using sunscreens with oxybenzone if they are going to enter the ocean. Sunscreen in Hawaii is simply a necessity, and there are alternatives which are safer to both coral reefs and people. Finding safer alternatives starts with checking labels. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) points out that while no sunscreen has been proven to be completely “reef-friendly,” those that contain minerals, namely titanium oxide or zinc oxide, have not been found to harm coral reefs.
Or as Kyllo put it, “There are reef-safe alternatives-readily available-that are just as effective.” And since the Hawaii state bill is stalled, “it’s more important than ever to avoid these reef-harming chemicals until a formal ban is in place.”
[Editor’s Note: Goddess Garden is a sponsor for Naturally Savvy, however this is not a paid post. We felt it was important to bring this information to you so you are aware of the impact and can spread the word. Goddess Garden has effective mineral based sunscreen that is reef-safe. You can read more about this cause on Goddess Garden’s website.]