With warm temperatures year-round and picture-perfect beaches, Hawaii is certainly a destination where you’ll need sunscreen. But did you know that some sun protection products contain ingredients that can damage and kill coral reef?
Now Hawaii governor David Ige is expected to sign a bill that will ban the sale of certain sunscreens that contain particular chemicals – oxybenzone and octinoxate.
Oxybenzone protects the skin against the damaging effects of ultraviolet light, but scientists discovered the chemical, found in more than 3,500 sun protection products worldwide, is highly toxic to coral in a 2015 study. They found four major toxic effects in developing coral, namely: increased susceptibility to bleaching, DNA damage, abnormal skeleton growth and gross deformities in baby coral. Octinoxate, a UVB absorber, is similarly toxic to coral and is an inexpensive ingredient, so helps keep the cost of sunscreen low.
According to some estimates, a third of the world’s coral reef has died in the past three years, others say half has gone in the past 30 years. Whatever the exact figures are, we’re rapidly losing an essential part of ocean environment, mainly due to human activity.
The coral reefs surrounding Hawaii are hugely important to the US state, aside from being home to marine life and drawing tourists for snorkelling and diving, a recent study found that coral reef provides protection for coastal towns from storm floods.
Brian Guadagno, CEO of sustainable sunscreen brand Raw Elements, has been championing this change in the law for seven years.
“It’s a huge victory for Hawaii to ban the sale of chemical sunscreens killing Hawaii’s coral reefs,” Guadagno says, “but the fight for responsible sustainability doesn’t stop there.”
Raw Elements products are free of these environment-damaging chemicals and only contain organic, non-GMO ingredients like rosemary oil, sunflower seed oil and mango butter, and claim to be the “safest, most effective sunscreen on the planet.”
Guadagno worked as a ocean lifeguard for 20 years before developing the natural, reef-safe sunscreen.
Hawaii’s new law won’t come into effect until 2021, but the company are in discussions with lawmakers in other US states, hotels and tourism boards about banning the chemicals elsewhere.
- Press Association