Did you know
that two ingredients found in many popular sunscreen products —
oxybenzone and octinoxate — are known to
harm and kill corals?
Why oxybenzone and octinoxate are bad for reefs
Hawaii is the first state in the nation to ban the sale of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals that are known to harm or kill corals. The new “sunscreen law” goes into effect on January 1, 2021, but why wait? Get the jump on protecting Maui’s coral reefs by making the sunscreen switch today.
Why make the switch?
Scientific testing shows that oxybenzone and octinoxate may stunt the growth of baby corals, reports Dr. Craig Downs, executive director of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Clifford, Virginia.
Oxybenzone can also cause coral bleaching. An oxybenzone concentration of around 400 ppt over several days is enough to induce coral bleaching in warm waters. Downs’ team tested ocean water off popular beaches on Maui and detected oxybenzone contamination of up to 4,000 parts per trillion (ppt).
Oxybenzone is toxic to seven coral species, according to Dr. Downs’ team, who tested the impact of the sunscreen chemical on corals in the lab.
Oxybenzone may be an endocrine disruptor among marine animals such as shrimps and clams.
We’re working to prevent sunscreen pollution
Outreach and education
Maui Nui Marine Resource Council is working with Maui Visitors Bureau and the County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development to educate Maui visitors and residents about the value of making the switch to safer-for-the-reef sunscreens. Our staff also provides free sunscreen information at events such as the Aloha Classic and West Maui Ridge 2 Reef Rendezvous.
Working with local snorkel cruise operators
Many snorkel cruise companies on Maui now provide their guests with sunscreens that are free of oxybenzone and octinoxate –thanks to members of our team who worked with others in the local community to source affordable alternative products in bulk.
We’re proud to have helped change the law
Maui Nui Marine Resource Council testified repeatedly in support of a proposed Maui County ban on the sale of sunscreen products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. Read some of that testimony here. We also urged our local legislators to pass the state bill banning the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate.
What you can do:
1. Avoid sunscreens and body care products that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. Read the labels carefully.
2. Skip spray-on products that disperse sunscreen everywhere around you (including on sand, where it washes into the ocean).
3. Choose zinc oxide or titanium dioxide based sunscreens. Here are some locations on Maui that carry sunscreens that are free of oxybenzone and octinoxate:
Ask for zinc oxide or titanium dioxide based sunscreens that are free of oxybenzone and octinoxate wherever you shop for body care products. Encourage stores to carry these safer alternatives.
4. Avoid all sunscreen products made with nano particles and other possible reef-harming ingredients, including avobenzone, octocrylene and homosalate.
5. Minimize your need for sunscreen by covering up with a hat and rash guard. Swim tights or athletic tights (like you would wear to the gym) also provide effective sun protection.
6. Choose snorkel cruise companies that require passengers to use sunscreens that are free of oxybenzone and octinoxate.
7. Remember that even if you are miles away from the ocean, chemicals washed off your body in your shower or bath will eventually find their way to the sea. When you’re home, do a good turn for coral reefs everywhere by avoiding all body care products with oxybenzone and octinoxate.