Senator Mike Gabbard's Floor Remarks on SB 2571 SD2 HD2 CD1 (Oxybenzone/Octinoxate Sunscreen Ban)

May 1, 2018 - Mr. President, I rise in strong support of SB 2571 SD2 HD2 CD1. Colleagues, this legislation is a big step forward for the protection of our coral reefs, marine life, and human health.

When it goes into effect on January 1, 2021, it will be the first law passed not only in this country, but in the entire world, to ban sunscreens that contain the dangerous chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. For the record, Mexico has taken administrative action to ban the use of sunscreens with these chemicals in their nature preserves.

But this measure, will be the first law. Scientific evidence indicates that these chemicals induce coral bleaching, harm and kill coral larvae by creating gross deformities, and act as an endocrine disrupter.

As it relates to human health, these chemicals are linked to causing breast cancer to become more aggressive, polluting breast milk, causing Hirschsprung Deformity in newborns, are associated with women's uterine diseases, threaten male sexual health, and can damage DNA.

There's evidence that oxybenzone is even showing up in our aquifers and drinking water. Worldwide, 50% of our coral reefs were lost in 2014 and 2015 because of coral bleaching. The main factor that has contributed to the decline of our coral reefs is localized pollution, such as sewage, pesticide runoff, and chemical sunscreens.

How much sunscreen are we talking about? According to US National Park Service, more than 6 thousand tons of sunscreen end up in Hawaiian waters every year. The Department of Land and Natural Resources has reported that 55 gallons. That's right, 55 gallons, of sunscreen are going into our nearshore waters each day on Maui. So, with this volume of chemical sunscreens pouring into our oceans in areas like Kapalua and Hanauma Bays, of course our reefs are going to have next to no chance of recovery.

The fact is: SB 2571 was inspired by the science! And my hat is off to Dr. Robert Richmond of UH, Dr. Ruth Gates of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, and Dr. Craig Downs of the Haereticus Environmental Lab for providing us the facts to help us make an informed and educated decision.

It's encouraging to know that our tourist industry is stepping up, with companies such as Hawaiian Airlines, Aqua-Aston, Sheraton, Outrigger, Kaanapali Resort, and Napili Resorts are all doing their part to provide reef friendly sunscreens to their guests.

For the record, reef-friendly sunscreens refer to those that have been scientifically proven to be safe in our environment and contain active ingredients such as non-nano size titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

As I mentioned, Dr. Craig Downs, a forensic eco-toxicologist has been one of our principal scientific experts in crafting this legislation. He informed us that he'll be excited to now allow his 6-year-old daughter, Evelyn, to swim in Kapalua and Hanauma Bays and outdoor swimming pools in our state once this ban takes effect.

Think about that for a moment...the scientist who has shown us the high concentration of oxybenzone in Hanauma Bay, thinks it's too dangerous for his daughter to get in the water there! Much has been said about whether there will be enough alternatives to sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. However, even the mainstream names of sunscreens already offer alternatives.

Not to mention eco-friendly ones, like Raw Elements, All Good, Babo Botanicals, Badger, Goddess Garden, Happy As Larry, Hawaii Medicinals, Kuleana Sun Production, Little Hands Hawaii, Mama Kuleana, Manda Naturals, Raw Love, and Sole Kine Maui that are on store shelves. And Little Hands Hawai‘i is actually making their sunscreen here!

SB 2571 is a good first step in keeping oxybenzone or octinoxate out of our water and away from our bodies. And is definitely the right thing to do! Please join me in supporting this important bill.