Jul 15, 2019 | Updated: 10:46 AM EDT

Coral-destroying sunscreen ingredients banned in Florida

Feb 13, 2019 06:19 PM EST

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Key West City in Florida has followed the lead of Hawaii in banning sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. Hawaii was the lead in banning these ingredients in July 2018. With a vote of 6-1, city commissioners approved the said motion on February 5, 2019, showing their concern about the damages that these ingredients can do to coral reefs. Florida Keys is near to the sole coral reef in North America. 

Effects of oxybenzone and octinoxate to coral reefs

Oxybenzone and octinoxate convert UV rays into harmless heat on human skin. These cause potential damage to corals as they damage the corals' DNA and allows bleaching. Corals get damaged because of these as well as other factors like coral disease, rising sea temperatures, water pollution, and ocean acidification. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology published a study that showed oxybenzone damaging corals that are at "concentrations as low as the equivalent of one drop of water in six-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools." 

Political leaders taking the lead

'To me, it boils right down to the fact that there are thousands of sunscreens out there and we have one reef, and we have an opportunity to do one small thing to protect that,' Key West mayor Teri Johnston said. 'I believe it's our obligation.' The ban on these chemicals will be implemented starting January 1, 2021, as it synchronizes with the Hawaii ban. Medical prescriptions will be allowed.

Greg Davila was not in favor of the ban as he points out that there is 'scientific ambiguity' about the effects of these ingredients on corals.

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