By signing bill SB 2571 on June 3, 2018, Governor David Ige made Hawaii first state in the world to ban certain sunscreens suspected to harmfully impact coral reefs. Last May, the state legislature passed the world’s first ever bill to ban on sunscreens that contain chemicals oxybenzone  and octinoxate . The sale, offer of sale, and distribution of sunscreens that contain these chemicals will be prohibited in Hawaii beginning January 1, 2021.
“Studies have documented the negative impact of these chemicals on corals and other marine life. Our natural environment is fragile, and our own interaction with the earth can have lasting impacts. This new law is just one step toward protecting the health and resiliency of Hawaii’s coral reefs,” said Governor Ige.
The new law prohibits counties from restricting either chemical until the state ban becomes effective. In addition, this law does not include products marketed or intended for use as a cosmetic (according to the US legislation, this means that only OTC sunscreens are concerned, not cosmetics that would contain these chemicals for other purposes that skin protection). Sunscreens prescribed by licensed healthcare providers are also exempted from the prohibition.
The Surfrider Foundation estimates that 500 tons of sunscreen enter Hawaii’s waters every day.
Commenting on the new legislation, Alexandra Kowcz, Chief Scientist at the Personal Care Products Council, said it is “based on mistaken beliefs about these ingredients” and “on inadequate scientific studies”.
“These well-intentioned but misguided changes in policy may yield little to no environmental benefit to Hawaii, while at the same time restricting consumer choice, reducing access to cancer-protecting sunscreens, and likely increasing exposure to the devastation of skin cancer,” Kowcz added.