Hawaii is poised to become the first state in the nation to pass a law banning the sales of over-the-counter sunscreens containing chemicals believed to harm coral reefs if Hawaii legislators vote to pass it on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 2571, introduced by Sen. Mike Gabbard, prohibits the sale and distribution of over-the-counter sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. The bill passed out of conference committee on Friday and is headed to floor votes by both the House and Senate on Tuesday. If it passes, it goes to Gov. David Ige for his signature.
“This is a huge win for our state,” said Gabbard in a Facebook post on Friday, “for our near shore, our coral reefs, oceans, and marine life. I’m happy we’re taking this step to protect our environment and our people.”
Gabbard composed and performed a song specifically about the bill, accompanied by harmonica, that he sang at an International Year of the Reef rally on Thursday at the Capitol rotunda.
The bill is supported by the Friends of Hanauma Bay, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and a number of other nonprofit environmental groups, as well as the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Craig Downs, executive director of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Virginia, which tested Hanauma Bay last year to measure the levels of oxybenzone in waters there, also testified in favor of the bill. It is opposed by the Hawaii Medical Association, Hawaii Food Industry Association, American Chemistry Council and Personal Care Products Council, as well as Bayer, which manufactures Coppertone sunscreens.
Two amendments were made to the final version of the bill. The date that the proposed law would go into effect was pushed from July 1, 2019 back to Jan. 1, 2021. In addition, sunscreens that fall under the category of cosmetics intended for use on the face are not included.