The Key West City Commission on Tuesday unanimously voted to ban the sale of sunscreens that contain two ingredients — oxybenzone and octinoxate — that a growing body of scientific evidence says harm coral reefs. “This ordinance is just one other thing we can do to help improve and protect our water quality,” said Mill McCleary, of the nonprofit environmental protection group Reef Relief.
The measure, which passed 7-0, isn’t law yet, though. The commission must review it a second time and pass the measure again before it would become law. The second vote is scheduled for Feb. 5.
Environmental researchers have published studies showing how these two ingredients, which accumulate in the water from bathers or from wastewater discharges, can damage coral reefs through bleaching and harming the corals’ DNA. In some instances, the corals can die. Last year, Hawaii banned the sale or distribution of any sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, a measure that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021. It was the first state in the nation to implement such a ban.
In Florida, the website for the South Florida Reef Ambassador Initiative, which falls under the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, tells divers to “Avoid sunscreens with Oxybenzone and Avobenzone. The benzones are compounds that are lethal to coral reproduction in very small amounts.”
A study published last year in the American Academy of Dermatology acknowledged that there is “emerging evidence that chemical sunscreen ingredients” could affect coral reefs, but said further study is warranted. Dermatologists are concerned that a ban of these ingredients could have an impact on skin cancer rates.
My Take: If the small amounts of these chemicals coming off the skin of swimmers and divers are damaging our reefs, imagine what they are doing to our bodies where the contact is direct and the concentration is high. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are absorbed into the skin while zinc oxide (the safe alternative) sits on top of the skin acting as a block.
Bottom Line: I only use zinc oxide, per my dermatologist recommendation. This is vital if you have a history of skin cancer. A “clear” version is available now. It goes on white but disappears after a couple of minutes. It is inexpensive, safe and available at most drug stores.
Source: January 16, 2019 Miami Herald