Sunscreen's a handy thing to have to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. But according to environmentalists, it also has been proven to be harmful to Hawaii's coral reefs.
So convincing is their proof, one group dubbed the Friends of Hanauma Bay with backing from researchers such as the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, managed to get the state's government to introduce Senate Bill 2571 on Wednesday. The bill aims to ban sales and distribution of sunscreen products containing octinoxate and oxybenzone, components that have been connected to the bleaching and deterioration of coral off Hawaii Island. Representatives from the states upper and lower houses will meet to sort out any discrepancies in a few versions of the bill that's already been passed.
Climate change has long been considered a major culprit of the deterioration of the corals, which are unable to withstand increased acidity in the water, caused by a temperature rise in the ocean. But closer to home, scientists have discovered that sunscreen is also a dangerous contributor. One representative of the Maui Ocean Center declared that more than half of corals off Hawaii's largest island is already bleached as is nearly half of corals by West Maui and roughly a third on Oahu. A government representative believed that 90 percent of Hawaii's coral reef could die within 30 years.
Hawaii's government has both Democrat and Republican members united on the issue as further damage to the corals can not only inhibit the presence of other sea life in the region, it could jeopardize the state's tourism industry. Besides being attractive to more aquatic tourists, reefs are also vital habitats for sea life and when subject to a toxic water environment tend to crumble and erode into sand.
Scientist Craig Downs recently took samples an Hanauma Bay and discovered sunscreen levels were so high, the well-being of the corals in the area were compromised to the point where they were “very close to the point of no return.” Another researcher in Maui estimated that up to 55 gallons of sunscreen find their way into the water every day. And even though dermatologists and members of the cosmetic industry fought against the bill, it's still active on the table with its passage most likely a formality at this stage.