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Hawaii’s Ban on Certain Sunscreens About To Become Official

The new regulations have implications for the promotional products industry.

In a Nutshell

*Governor David Ige is expected to sign legislation this week that establishes the ban.

*The legislation prevents the sale and distribution of sunscreen that contains oxybenzone and octinoxate, unless prescribed by a licensed healthcare provider.

Hawaii is poised to become the first state to ban sunscreens containing certain chemicals in a move that matters to the promotional products industry. Should Governor David Ige sign the legislation into law this week as expected, promo suppliers and distributors will need to ensure that any sunscreen they sell or circulate in the Aloha State does not contain the banned substances of oxybenzone and octinoxate. Once law, the ban would take effect Jan. 1, 2021.

Environmentalists have come out in support of the legislation.

The support from environmentalists and other proponents comes because they believe Hawaii’s ban will help protect coral reefs from damage caused to them by oxybenzone and octinoxate. Indeed, the lead sponsor of the banning legislation said he was motivated by a desire to protect reefs. “When you think about it, our island paradise, surrounded by coral reefs, is the perfect place to set the gold standard for the world to follow,” state Sen. Mike Gabbard, who introduced the bill, told Yahoo! Finance. “This will make a huge difference in protecting our coral reefs, marine life, and human health.”

Found in popular sunscreen brands, oxybenzone and octinoxate contribute to coral bleaching, studies show. For example, a recent study from the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology found that chemicals in sunscreen kill coral and result in DNA damage in larval and adult stage coral. The impact on DNA limits coral’s ability to grow and develop healthily. Coral bleaching was reportedly a cause behind widespread destruction of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. According to researchers, about 14,000 tons of sunscreen glop onto coral reefs annually. Sunscreen concentrations were found to be among the highest in the world on the beaches of Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Traditional sunscreen manufacturers and some health care professionals have come out against Hawaii’s likely ban, which the state legislature approved in May. Representing manufacturers, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) has released a statement that warns of the potential human health repercussions.

“Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that excess sun exposure without effective sunscreen increases the risk of developing skin cancer in both adults and children,” CHPA said. “Oxybenzone and octinoxate, found in the majority of sunscreens, are safe and effective over-the-counter (OTC) active ingredients recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as important aides in decreasing the risk of developing skin cancer, the most common cancer in the U.S.”

That line of reasoning didn’t sway Hawaiian legislators. Ban proponents think the prohibition won’t lead people to suddenly stopping using sun protection, as there are alternatives that don’t contain the prohibited chemicals.