Hawaii to ban certain sunscreens with chemicals toxic to coral reefs

Updated 2018-05-03 17:13:20 Xinhua

Hawaii is set to become the first U.S. state to ban sunscreen products containing certain chemicals dangerous to coral reefs and marine life, said media reports.

The Hawaii state legislature on Tuesday passed a bill to ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, reported Buzzfeed.

The ban is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1. 2021, once it is signed by the state's governor.

However, the bill will not affect medically-prescribed sunscreens containing those chemicals, according to the Huffington Post.

Scientific research has proved that the two chemicals commonly found in sunscreens to protect the skin against ultraviolet rays can, in fact, kill coral by leaching it of nutrients and gradually bleaching it.

The chemicals also disrupt the development of fish and coral-dependent marine life such as urchins and algae, according to a study published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology in 2015.

About 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion ends up in coral reefs around the world each year, the study said.

Popular tourist beaches had among the highest concentrations of such products, it added.

Moreover, the chemicals in sunscreens can damage corals whether people wear it on land or at the beach, Hawaii State Senator Laura Thielen told local station KHON2.

"More and more people realize, as you go home and shower the water is getting treated and put out into the ocean," the senator said.

Often referred to as the "rain forests of the sea," tropical coral reefs rank among the most biologically rich and productive global ecosystems that benefit millions of people, according to a 2011 report by the United Nations.

Concerted global efforts have been urged to protect the fragile and vulnerable ecosystems of corals.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Sunday that the government has allocated 500 million Australian dollars (376 million U.S. dollars) to save the Great Barrier Reef, the largest of its kind in the world.

A recent study finds that 30 percent of the Great Barrier Reef coral was killed during a "catastrophic" heatwave in 2016.

The world has lost roughly half of its coral reefs in the last 30 years as a result of global warming and pollution, The Independent reported early last year.

Even if the world could halt global warming now, scientists still expect that more than 90 percent of corals will die by 2050, The Independent added.

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