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Many Common Sunscreens May Harm Coral. Here’s What To Use Instead

Hawaii Gov. David Ige is expected this week to sign the world’s first ban on the sale of sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. The state is banning the products because of concerns they may be harming one of the state’s biggest attractions — coral reefs.

While it doesn’t kick in until 2021, the move is already prompting pushback.

That’s because up to 70 percent of sunscreens on the U.S. market contain oxybenzone, according to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents sunscreen-makers. Up to 8 percent contain octinoxate, which often shows up on labels as octyl methoxycinnamate.

“We’re taking away a product, or products … that have been shown over the course of time to be safe and effective” against skin cancer and sun damage, says Jay Sirois, director of regulatory affairs for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

Indeed, both chemicals have had the Food and Drug Administration’s OK for decades, but in recent years, some environmental research has suggested octinoxate can contribute to coral bleaching and that oxybenzone exposure leads to the death of baby coral.


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