Hawaii bans sunscreen in an effort to protect coral reefs and the environment.
Hawaii has approved legislation that aims to ban certain types of Sunscreen and more than 3,500 skincare related products containing harmful chemicals.
The two chemicals in questions are; Oxybenzone and Octinoxate. These chemicals are frequently added to sunscreen as an ultraviolet light blocker and to other products as a photostabilizer.
The effects of Sunscreen on Coral Reefs:
The problem with these two chemicals is that they cause damage and stress to coral reefs which contributes to coral bleaching. This not only creates issues for aquatic life populations but is also causing $30 – $170 billion dollars in economic damage to Hawaii in the form of lower tourism, shoreline protection and food supplies. There has also been research suggesting that these chemicals are harmful to humans with long term exposure.
Here are some of the culprit ingredients:
Oxybenzone is an organic compound that is a pale-yellow solid, conventionally used in sunscreens and plastics to limit UV degradation. Oxybenzone is toxic to coral and is lipophilic (Dissolves in fats, oils, lipids and non-polar solvents). It is not water soluble so the 14,000 tons of sunscreen that enters the ocean each year has a difficult time breaking apart. This causes DNA damage and disrupts the symbiotic relationship between the surrounding algae and coral, leading to starvation.
In humans, studies have shown that Oxybenzone is a possible contact allergen causing dermatitis. Due to its lipophilic properties, it is easily absorbed into human skin. Humans can absorb anywhere from .4% to 8.7% of Oxybenzone after one topical application and it is detectable in urine samples. However, the body tends to metabolize this chemical into 2,4-dihydroxybenzophenone (DHB) which was found to be non-mutagenic.
The next active ingredient in sunscreen is Octinoxate. for it’s UV-B blocking capabilities. A study carried out in 2017 by the Research Centre for Toxic Compounds in the Environment at Masaryk University found that octyl methoxycinnamate (EHMC) may damage human cell DNA. When exposed to sun rays, the spatial arrangement of its molecules changes and isomerisation takes place. Until now only unchanged EHMC has been researched, Massaryk University researchers focused on its isomers and found out that it has a significant genotoxic effect under lab conditions. This means that it may potentially damage human DNA and cause genome mutations.
The bill bans all skin care companies from selling any products containing these two chemicals anywhere on the island. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) which represents sunscreen manufacturers released a statement warning of health concerns associated with limiting access to sunscreen:
“Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that excess sun exposure without effective sunscreen increases the risk of developing skin cancer in both adults and children,” CHPA said. “Oxybenzone and octinoxate, found in the majority of sunscreens, are safe and effective over-the-counter (OTC) active ingredients recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as important aides in decreasing the risk of developing skin cancer, the most common cancer in the U.S.”
The Haereticus Environmental Laboratory researches the effects of sunscreens and other personal care ingredients on coral reefs and on other ecosystems and wildlife. Their list of ingredients that they consider to be environmental pollutants includes:
- Any form of microplastic sphere or beads.
- Any nanoparticles like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
- 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
- Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
Rub It In—Don’t Spray It
Opt for SPF lotions and creams instead of sprays, which are more likely to stick to the sand than your skin. When the tide comes in, this chemical-covered sand is then carried out into the ocean, which can lead to additional contamination. Also troubling: When it rains, this sunscreen residue can seep underneath the sand, where sea turtles often lay eggs.
Unfortunately, Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are in the majority of all sunscreens. But, the good news is that there are chemical-free options such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide that are natural alternatives and are just as effective at blocking UV radiation. If we all participate in this small change, we can reduce the harmful effects sunscreen will continue to cause in the future. By spreading awareness, we’re helping make a huge impact for our oceans and animal life that are currently in danger.
Consider the 10 options below, all of which have a “1” rating from the EWG, (Envitonmental Working Group) and positive reviews from online consumers.
A portion of your purchase from any of these products will go to Project AWARE (a global movement for ocean protection) via Amazon.
- Aubrey Organics Natural Sun Sunscreen, Sensitive Skin/Children, SPF 30+
- Badger Sunscreen Cream, Unscented, SPF 30
- UV Natural Sport Lip Sunscreen, SPF 30+
- Badger Broad Spectrum Sport Facestick, SPF 35
- ECO logical All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+
- Elemental Herbs Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30+
- Green Screen D Organic Sunscreen, Original, SPF 35
- BurnOut Ocean Tested Physical Sunscreen, SPF 30
- Raw Elements USA Eco Formula SPF 30
- All Terrain KidSport SPF30*
More information here: www.ewg.org/2013sunscreen
Please consider a more eco-friendly sunscreen this summer. Not only for the environment, but for you and your family’s own longterm health.