Coral reefs around the Hawaiian islands are essential elements of the underwater ecosystem. The reefs are important touristic attractions as well.
However, scientists recently discovered several chemicals found within many popular brands of sunscreen contain a couple of chemicals toxic to coral reefs. Namely, they detected oxybenzone and octinoxate.
To preserve and protect coral reefs, local lawmakers decided to pass a new legislation. This is designed to ban sunscreens containing the two chemicals in order to defend the island’s native ecosystems.
As it is, the ban’s target are the chemicals, not the sunscreens in themselves. Sunscreen is a very important protective shield against the sun and its potentially harmful effects.
The Need to Protect Coral Reefs, a Global Issue
Damage to coral reefs is not unique to the Hawaiian islands. The world’s largest coral reefs, the Great Barrier Reef off the coasts of Australia, have suffered substantial damage in recent years. This was mainly due to an increased water temperature but also because of human-made toxins and garbage.
Hawaii intends to prolong the life its underwater ecosystem with these new laws. However, these will not go into effect right away.
This should offer sunscreen manufacturers ample time to alter production and change the ingredients. All sunscreens sold in Hawaii must meet the newly designated requirements by 2021.
According to research conducted in 2015, nearly 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion end up on the regional coral reef on an annual basis. The new measures to ban certain sunscreens or more precisely, certain chemicals in them, is an early protection measure.
Coral reefs have been increasingly more affected by bleaching. This kills the coral, which affects the hundreds of animal and plants dependent on it to survive. Researchers and humanitarians hope that this new ban will be just a first step to additional regulations.
Garbage and other contaminants continue to affect the ocean, as well. Some of it also reaches and remains in coral reefs, further damaging them.
The new laws did not receive much pushback from sunscreen companies. Many manufacturers selling such products in the Hawaiian islands already offer chemical-free sunscreens, so conforming to the new regulations will not take long.
It’s expected most companies will comply with these regulations well before the 2021 deadline as the banned chemicals are removed from store products.
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