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Hawaii State Senator Will Espero announced last June he'd introduce a bill seeking a statewide ban on sunscreens with oxybenzone – an ingredient that damages coral reefs. Photo: Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Hawaii State Senator Will Espero announced last June he’d introduce a bill seeking a statewide ban on sunscreens with oxybenzone – an ingredient that damages coral reefs. Photo: Cory Lum/Civil Beat


The Inertia

Hawaii State Senator Will Espero will follow through with introducing a bill hoping to ban certain sunscreens across the state when the state’s 2017 legislative session begins January 18th, he told The Inertia.

The call to ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone, a chemical found in nearly 70-percent of non-mineral sunscreens, according to EWG, occurred last June following the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium in Honolulu. Expert panels stressed the need for a ban on oxybenzone, a recommendation scientists have been making for years, and urged consumers to avoid products containing the chemical.

It was in the final day of the symposium that Senator Espero announced he’d take up the cause in the next legislative session (which is set to begin next Wednesday).

“A ban is the right thing to do in order to protect our fragile marine eco-system,” he said in a June statement. “Since our ocean environment is key to our tourism industry and our economic lifeline, banning a chemical substance that harms our coral and other marine animals should be a top priority next year in the state legislature.”

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When asked if he plans to stay the course, Senator Espero was direct. “I’m hoping to introduce the bill by next Friday, the 20th,” he said. “I am currently getting senators to co-sponsor the bill… I’ve already secured support from many individuals and organizations.”

Sunscreen pollution has been deemed a serious environmental threat for coral reefs and marine ecosystems for some time. In an article published by MarineSafe, Dr. Craig Downs, Director of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, argued that oxybenzone levels in areas like Hawaii are at staggering heights. “Our research demonstrated that these pathologies can occur at concentrations as low as 62 parts per trillion. For perspective, beaches in Hawaii have oxybenzone levels higher than 700 parts per trillion early in the morning before swimmers even arrive,” he said.

Should the bill pass, the ban would take effect in early 2018, making Hawaii the first state to ban sunscreens with the chemical.

 

 



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