Why would a state known for its beautiful beaches try to implement a sunscreen ban for beachgoers? They say there’s a valid reason.
If Hawaii lawmakers have their way, a sunscreen ban might just change how you protect yourself from the sun when you visit.
A new law awaiting the governor’s signature is designed to ban sunscreens that contain certain chemicals: oxybenzone and octinoxate.
Both have been shown to do serious damage to Hawaii’s coral reefs. Believe it or not, scientists estimate that 14,000 tons — yes, tons — of sunscreen wash off of people swimming in the water and onto the coral reefs. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History says this about coral reefs: “The value of coral reefs has been estimated at $30 billion U.S. dollars and perhaps as much as $172 billion U.S. dollars each year, providing food, protection of shorelines, jobs based on tourism, and even medicines.”
As you could probably guess, manufacturers of sunscreen aren’t happy about the law because those chemicals are used in more than 3,500 of the world’s most popular sunscreen products, including Hawaiian Tropic, Coppertone and Banana Boat. Unless manufacturers could find alternative ingredients that accomplish the same thing without damaging the coral reefs, they’d be banned. The only exception would be sunscreens that contain those ingredients that are also prescribed by a licensed physician.
So enjoying time on the beach in Hawaii could soon mean finding a different way to protect yourself from skin cancer, a disease blamed on too much skin damage from the sun’s UV rays.
The most curious aspect of this whole measure to me is the timeframe in which it would take effect. If the governor signs the bill, it won’t be until Jan. 1, 2021 that it takes effect.
That’s nearly three years from now.
Does that mean there are currently no alternative ingredients proven to work? If there aren’t, it could take longer than three years to find something that does, work out the right combination, test for side effects and get it into production.
If there are already alternatives that are safe — and it appears that there are because other brands say they wouldn’t be affected by the ban — then why would it take so long to get the ban underway? If the reefs have an economic impact of up to $172 billion, why are we waiting so long to finally start protecting them better than we are now?
I applaud Hawaii for their efforts to save a valuable resource. It just seems that it’s taking too long for that rescue to begin.