We all need to do the best for the planet, however small our individual actions may seem. Hawaii made history in 2021 by banning the sale and the use of certain types of sunscreen in an effort to protect marine life and the coral reef.
The new law came into effect on January 1st 2021 and is the first US State to take this step. The new law prevents sunscreen that contains the chemicals Oxybenzone and Octinoxate from being sold on the island and although visitors are still allowed to bring it in, all visitors are being encouraged to voluntarily conform with the new law.
So what are Oxybenzone and Octinoxate?
Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are two of the most commonly used chemicals in sunscreens and they come with some major concerns both to health and the environment.
They are effective as sunscreens because they act as chemical filters in the body; they do not block the sun’s rays from reaching the skin, instead these hormone type substances filter out dangerous UV rays within the body.
It is important to remember that Oxybenzone and Octinoxate were approved as safe back in the 70s and there was very little research carried out into their safety and potential risks.
Today studies have shown that these sunscreen chemicals stay in the body for a long time and can disrupt hormones.
Traces of Oxybenzone have been detected even in breast milk. After even with just one application of sunscreen, these chemicals will be circulating in the blood stream for weeks afterwards.
Scientists are unsure of their true long term impact on health but animal studies suggest they may have an impact on reproductive health, the thyroid and cause other hormonal issues such as reduced testosterone levels in boys.
The environmental damage of sunscreen
Hawaii has banned the use of these types of sunscreen for environmental reasons. Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are thought to be harmful to the coral reefs and increases its susceptibilty to bleaching.
It is estimated that 14,000 tons of sunscreen contaminates the coral reefs each year causing major environmental damage. Preventing these chemicals from entering the sea could have a very positive effect upon marine life and ecology
You should still wear sunscreen
Skin cancer specialists and dermatologists do not share the concerns about Oxybenzone and Octinoxate because these chemicals do prevent skin damage. The official medical view is that it is far more important for health to wear sunscreen with chemicals than it is to wear no sunscreen at all.
However the safest option is to choose a sunscreen that acts as a physical barrier to the sun’s rays. These types of sunscreen generally contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide and are much safer both for the individual and for the health of the planet.