Hawaii & Alaska
Dr. Craig Downs, Executive Director of Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, gathers coral samples at Honoloa Bay on Maui. His groundbreaking research educated the world about sunscreen chemicals and their role in coral reef decline. File image courtesy of Maui Nui Marine Resource Council.

HI - Maui County Council Passes Historic Bill Prohibiting Non-Mineral Sunscreens

The Maui County Council unanimously passed Bill 135 to prohibit the sale, distribution, or use of non-mineral sunscreens. The bill was introduced by Maui County Councilmember Kelly Takaya King, chair of the Council’s Climate Action, Resilience, and Environment Committee.

Bill 135 recognizes that a number of non-mineral sunscreens have recently been demonstrated to pose a threat to the health of coastal waters, coral reefs, and other marine species.  

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are known as “mineral sunscreens.” Non-mineral sunscreens include chemical sunscreens such as octinoxate, octocrylene, and oxybenzone. Of the sixteen active ingredients currently used as UV filters in sunscreen products, only zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are deemed generally recognized as safe and effective by the United States Food and Drug Administration.  

“Non-mineral sunscreens are an aggressive pollutant,” said Councilmember King. “Our coral reefs are our first defense against erosion from sea level rise and, in addition to the threats of climate change and ocean warming, runoff from storms and development, and seepage from wastewater injection wells, chemical sunscreens cause extensive harm to our reef systems and marine life. Bill 135 is one important step toward protecting the health and resilience of our reef and marine life by removing a significant ecological stressor.”

Once signed into law, Bill 135 will take effect on Oct. 1, 2022. According to the bill, administration of the new prohibitions is the responsibility of the County Department of Environmental Management. The sale, distribution, or use of prohibited non-mineral sunscreens would be considered a violation of the Maui County Code, subject to penalties and enforcement procedures. Fines will be deposited into the County Environmental Protection and Sustainability Fund.

“Our reefs are invaluable,” said King. “Coral reefs are essential for the livelihood of many residents of Maui County, the perpetuation of cultural practices, and the protection of coastal areas. Our marine environment provides opportunities for recreation, inspiration, and scenic beauty for residents and visitors. We must do what is necessary to preserve and protect it.”

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Read also

Maui aims to ban all chemical sunscreens; Big Island takes steps to protect Hawaii’s coral reefs  KHON2

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Bill 135 was supported by researchers, environmental organizations, local youth, the County Administration, and the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

While working at the ʻĀhihi Kīnaʻu Natural Area Reserve in South Maui, Jeff Bagshaw of the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife became one of the earliest advocates of banning non-mineral based sunscreens. He testified before the County Council in support of the Maui ban.

Read more.