Proposed bill aims to ban sunscreen to protect coral reefs

Hawaii could soon be the first place in the world to ban the sale of sunscreens believed to be harmful to coral reefs.

The state senate there passed the legislation on Wednesday.

If signed by the governor, Senate Bill 2571 will ban the sale of over the counter sunscreen with oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Scientists have found the two substances can be toxic to coral, which are a vital part of the ocean ecosystem and a popular draw for tourists, according to ABC News.

"This is the first real chance that local reefs have to recover," Craig Downs, a scientist whose 2015 peer-reviewed study found oxybenzone was a threat to coral reefs, told ABC News. "Lots of things kill coral reefs, but we know oxybenzone prevents them from coming back." It also affects sea urchins and kills algae, a source of food for sea turtles, he said.

He found as much as 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion ends up in coral reefs annually.

If signed into law, the new rules will go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.
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