The weather is starting to heat up, school is almost out and summer is just around the corner. Hopefully, for you and your 'ohana, that means some fun in the sun and plenty of beach time. We always hear warning about protecting our bodies from sun exposure through the use of UPF clothing, hats, umbrellas, and of course SPF sunscreen. But have you heard about how you can protect ocean health during your beach outings?
Recently, the local & national news have been abuzz with articles relating to a current bill in the Hawaii State Legislature regarding a proposed ban on sunscreen containing oxybenzone.
The World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which met in Honolulu last September, disclosed that 2015 research led by a University of Hawai'i researcher implicated oxybenzone as a cause for coral larvae deformity, bleaching, and DNA damage that weakens corals' adaptability to climate change. The threat is particularly acute in Hawaiian ocean waters where coral bleaching is occurring at a historic rate never before noted in recorded history.
The Bill, SB1150, seeks to protect Hawai'i's coral reefs by prohibiting the use of sunscreens and cosmetics containing oxybenzone (and four other ingredients) at beaches. The bill also states "that there are reasonable alternatives to oxybenzone-based sunscreens that allow beach users to enjoy the outdoors without compromising sun protection, such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide".
Unfortunately, SB1150 did not make it to the final conference deadline in the Hawaii Legislature and it will hopefully be revisited next year. But that doesn't mean that we all can't start now to change our habits, educate others and drum up support for another legislative effort next year.
A simple web search for "oxybenzone free sunscreens" draws up plenty of options including many non-nano zinc oxide based sunscreens that won't leave you looking like a surfer straight out of the 80's. So next time you are at the store stocking up for summer, be sure to read those ingredient labels, as you would with food items. If you cant find a reef safe alternative, ask a manager to start stocking some options.
Reef Safe Alternatives: