The UV blockers in many popular sun creams are damaging our oceans
Hawaii has become the first US state to pass a bill banning chemical sun creams known to harm coral reefs. If the bill is signed by the Governor, sun creams containing the common chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate will no longer be able to be sold in the state from January 2021.
While the skincare benefits of sun cream are undisputed, it turns out that slathering yourself in a chemical SPF before a dip in the sea could have a detrimental effect on the delicate ocean ecosystem. These UV blocking chemicals, used in 3,500 of the most popular sun cream products including brands such as Nivea, Garnier and Ultrasun, have been linked to coral bleaching - a process where coral loses its pigment that leads to reefs being destroyed.
“These chemicals have also been shown to degrade corals’ resiliency and ability to adjust to climate change factors and inhibit recruitment of new corals,” the bill detailed. Considering an estimated 14,000 tons of sun cream end up in our oceans each year, it’s not surprising Hawaii has made this declaration.
Swimmers and snorkelers will instead have to choose mineral sun creams that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to physically block the sun’s rays.
This environmental win comes following the ban on microbeads in cosmetics by the UK government back in January. The small spherical beads often used in exfoliating scrubs cannot degrade over time and transport toxic chemicals into marine organisms.
Similarly, a number of beauty brands have addressed the bigger plastic pollution problem by introducing new plastic-free or recyclable plastic packaging.
Main image: Christopher Campbell