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Fish swim in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Key West just voted to ban the sale of sunscreens with chemicals linked to coral bleaching. Wilfredo Lee/AP

Key West To Ban Popular Sunscreen Ingredients To Protect Coral Reef

Key West voted late Tuesday to ban the sale of sunscreens containing certain chemicals linked to coral reef bleaching. The ban is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.

The Key West City Commission voted 6-1 to ban the sale, within city limits, of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, the Miami Herald reports. Some studies have linked the chemicals to cellular damage in coral reefs. But industry officials challenged the ban, saying the link between the chemicals and coral bleaching isn't proven.

Only one living coral reef exists in North America, and it lives about 6 miles off the Keys. "We have one reef, and we have to do one small thing to protect that," said Mayor Teri Johnston. "It's our obligation."

The banned chemicals are present in most of the sunscreens on sale in the U.S., NPR has reported. Up to 70 percent of sunscreens on the U.S. market contain oxybenzone, and up to 8 percent contain octinoxate. That includes offerings by Neutrogena, Coppertone and Aveeno.

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