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Hawaii Bans Two Chemicals Used in Sunscreen

January 8, 2019

By Caroline Miller, CIH, CSPOrange sunscreen bottle being put onto hand

On July 6th 2018, Hawaii’s Governor David Ige signed the bill SB2571 into law, banning the sale, offer of sale, or distribution in Hawaii of any sunscreen containing two common chemicals without a prescription issued by a licensed healthcare provider.

The law becomes effective on January 1st 2021 and it is the first of its kind in the United States with the intention to preserve marine ecosystems.

Which two sunscreen chemicals have been banned?

The two chemical substances which have been banned are:

  • Oxybenzone, which is also known as benzophenone-3
  • Octinoxate, which is known as octyl methoxycinnamate

Both of these banned chemicals are commonly found in over-the-counter sunscreens and protect the skin by filtering both UVA and UVB rays.

Why have they been banned?

The chemicals enter the waters via swimmers, water activity, and wastewater treatment plant discharges, and have been found to cause coral bleaching, which occurs when the coral reefs expel algae that provide the coral reefs with nutrients.

The coral may then starve, and although it can survive short-term disturbances, if the coral die, they decay and leave behind skeletons preventing regrowth, eventually leading to the collapse of the coral reef.

In addition, the chemicals have been found to be endocrine disruptors and cause reproductive issues in marine life.

Legal status among other agencies

Both chemicals are acceptable active ingredients in products that are labeled as sunscreen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Oxybenzone is approved to use up to 6% and octinoxate is approved up to 7.5%.

Oxybenzone is listed safe as used ingredients by Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), whereas the International Chemical Secretariat (ChemSec) has listed both chemicals on the REACH Substitute It Now (SIN) List as a level of concern as being endocrine disruptors.

TEDX – The Endocrine Disruption Exchange – has listed both chemicals as potential endocrine disruptors.

Both chemicals are on the European Union (EU) Cosmetics Directive, with oxybenzone having a 10% maximum authorized concentration (MAC), and octinoxate having a 6% MAC.

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Useful Information

Bill SB2571 

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