On July 3, Governor David Y. Ige signed SB2571 into law. The bill, which was passed by the Senate and House back in May, is a first of its kind in the United States; it bans sunscreens that use two ingredients, either together or separately, from sale in Hawaii without a prescription. The two substances are oxybenzone and octinoxate. The legislature found that these two chemicals cause damage to the ecosystem of Hawaii, including its coral reefs. Both substances can kill off young coral, damage coral, and cause coral bleaching. The legislature further found that the substances can cause endocrine damage and lead to deformities in fish and other underwater wildlife that live in the waters off Hawaii. As of January 1, 2021, only those people who have a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider will be able to purchase sunscreen containing oxybenzone or octinoxate. In signing this new law, Governor Ige said, “[s]tudies have documented the negative impact of these chemicals on corals and other marine life. Our natural environment is fragile, and our own interaction with the earth can have lasting impacts. This new law is just one step toward protecting the health and resiliency of Hawai‘i’s coral reefs.”
This new law does come with some controversy. Proper use of sunscreen has been shown to be effective in preventing skin cancer and so any ban on the product makes some worry that people may become less likely to use sunscreen and thus lead to an increase in skin cancer. Estimates are that around 70% of the sunscreens on the market today contain either oxybenzone or octinoxate or both. Both chemicals have been approved by the FDA for use in sunscreens to prevent damage from UV rays.