New chorus of voices questions plan to block sale of some sunscreens

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A bill that would ban the sale — but not the use — of sunscreen with chemicals believed to kill coral reefs is advancing at the state Legislature.

That's despite concern from some corners who question the science being the measure.

The bill would ban the sale of sunscreens with two common ingredients found in sunscreen: oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Some studies show the chemicals are toxic to coral reefs.

But some cancer experts say more studies are needed before some sunscreens are blocked, and they worry a ban could undo years of education about skin cancer prevention.

"We want to preserve the coral reef, but ... we don't want to diminish our use of sunscreen which has been proven to reduce risk for skin cancer," said Kevin Cassell, president of the Hawaii Skin Cancer Coalition.

Karen Glanz, visiting professor at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, added: "The research is trying to isolate a chemical without taking into account all the other factors that are affecting the coral reefs."

Bruce Anderson, administrator of the Division of Aquatic Resources at the Department of Land and Natural Resources, said the agency supports the intent of the bill. But he says the biggest threat to coral reefs is climate change and polluted runoff.

Rather than a ban, the agency favors more education about using alternative sunscreens.

"We are recommending alternative products without oxybenzone that are available. We do pass them out and recommend people use them," said Anderson.

Tourist Mary Bigler didn't know about the debate, but uses sunscreen to protect her granddaughter, Amika.

"I don't want them to get sun damage. They're young and they've got their whole life in the sun and any skin tone can have skin problems," said Bigler.

The bill doesn't ban the use of sunscreen with oxybenzone and octinoxate and people can still bring it into the state.

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