A bill to ban the sale of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone or octinoxate received overwhelming support and won approval Feb. 7 in its first joint public hearing at the state Legislature.
Those chemicals increase coral bleaching and reproductive diseases and cause deformities in some marine life, according to the bill.
Both chemicals have been approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration, but Senate Bill 2571 would prohibit the sale of sunscreen in any form that contains oxybenzone or octinoxate without a medical prescription.
“The science is now clear that oxybenzone and octinoxate are damaging our coral reefs and are a danger to human health,” said Sen. Mike Gabbard. “There are plenty of alternative sunscreens on the market with local companies even producing them.”
Gabbard (D, Kapolei-Makakilo) is chairman of the Agriculture and Environment Committee and is lead sponsor for the bill.
Supporters of the bill included the Sierra Club of Hawaii, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), Friends of Hanauma Bay, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, Hawaiian Affairs Caucus Democratic Party of Hawaii and the Lost Fish Coalition.
“No one likes to see a film of floating chemical-laden sunscreen on our ocean surfaces,” the Sierra Club of Hawaii said in its written testimony.
With millions of visitors coming to Hawaii each year, the Sierra Club contends the bill will promote the use of mineral-based sunscreens and help reduce the amount of chemicals in the ocean.
Opponents of the bill included the American Chemistry Council, Hawaii Medical Association, Hawaii Food Industry Association and Consumer Healthcare Products Association.
“This legislation, although well intended, lacks sufficient scientific evidence demonstrating that this sunscreen ingredient is responsible for coral bleaching,” said Tim Shestek in testimony on behalf of the American Chemistry Council. “This legislation could create consumer confusion and unnecessarily put consumers at risk by discouraging the use of sunscreen.”
The SB 2571 was tentatively approved by the Senate committees on Water and Land, and Agriculture and Environment, and now advances to the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health committees.
Lawmakers have considered similar bills, including a measure proposed in 2017 by Sen. Will Espero, but the Legislature thus far has refused to impose a ban.