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Hawaii Leads the Way with Proposed Ban on Toxic Sunscreens to Protect Reefs

What impact is your sunscreen having on the marine eco-systems? Scientists have found that oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals commonly found in conventional sunscreens, can be toxic to coral when the residue washes off in the ocean.

In light of this, Hawaii is leading the way, positioned to become the first US state to ban certain sunscreen products containing such substances by 2021 to protect its beautiful coral reefs.

According to scientist Craig Downs, “This is the first real chance that local reefs have to recover... lots of things kill coral reefs, but we know oxybenzone prevents them from coming back.” It also affects sea urchins and kills algae, a source of food for sea turtles, he said, as reported by SBS.

And the figures are more than shocking. Downs found that as much as 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen lotion ends up in coral reefs annually, which helps to illustrate why chemical sunscreen is such a huge environmental threat. 

Whilst this kind of action is needed globally to protect the deterioration of reefs around the world, including our Great Australian Barrier Reef, Hawaii taking the first step towards this is promising, though there is still a long way to go before we can see the desired international eradication of chemical sunscreen. 

In the meantime, we can all do our bit by making sure to select sunscreen that are reef-friendly by choosing oxybenzone-free sunscreen and eco-friendly sunscreen options.  

So how do you know what kind of sunscreen to use? Many commercial sunscreens contain oxybenzone and octinoxate as well as other ingredients which may be toxic not just to reefs but also to our bodies when absorbed in via the skin, our largest organ which is extremely porous. This is why selecting a natural sunscreen is always your best bet health-wise as well as in terms of being eco-friendly.

The main difference is that sunscreens protect the skin sun damage and burning in one of two ways: either absorbing the harmful rays using chemicals like Octylcrylen, Avobenzone and Octinoxate, or alternately, reflecting harmful rays from the skin using physical barriers like zinc oxide. Do a thorough label check before purchasing any sunscreen to make sure that it is using natural mechanisms to deflect the UV, rather than toxic substances to absorb the rays. 

At Wotnot we are proud to produce the highest quality, non-toxic all natural sunscreens on the market that are safe for you and the planet. After all, if it’s damaging the sea life, imagine what those substances could also be doing to the health of you and your family too. 



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