STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Key West bans certain sunscreens to protect coral reef

Key West, Florida; Hawaii, and the nation of Palau are banning certain ingredients in sunscreen to protect coral reefs.

Posted: Feb 9, 2019 8:30 AM
Updated: Feb 9, 2019 8:30 AM

Key West, Florida, has voted to ban certain sunscreens in an effort to protect coral reefs in its surrounding waters.

The city joins a growing list of places that have banned sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. The Pacific nation of Palau and the state of Hawaii both passed similar bans last year.

The two particular sunscreen ingredients are FDA-approved and help protect skin against damage from ultraviolet rays. So far, there's been no conclusive evidence to suggest the chemicals pose risks to humans.

There is a growing body of evidence, however, that suggests those sunscreen ingredients cause coral bleaching and other toxic effects to marine ecosystems when sunscreens worn by beachgoers wash off in the shower or in the water.

"To me, it boils right down to the fact that there are thousands of sunscreens out there and we have one reef," Mayor Teri Johnston said at a city commission meeting on Tuesday night. "And we have an opportunity to do one small thing to protect that. I believe it's our obligation."

Key West's ban will take effect on January 1, 2021, the same day Hawaii's ban is set to kick in. Both bans affect many popular sunscreen brands, including La Roche-Posay Face & Body Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk, Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50 and Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch sunscreens.

First-time violations of Key West's ban will result in a written warning. After that, violations will follow the city's standard civil citation procedures.

The motion passed 6-1 in a Key West city commission meeting to rousing applause and cheers. The discussion on the proposed ban lasted more than two hours, with many Key West residents and activists from the environmental nonprofit organization Reef Relief giving speeches in support of the ban.

But not everyone was on board.

Officials from the sunscreen manufacturing industry voiced their opposition, citing public health concerns. They also disputed the extent to which chemicals in sunscreens are thought to affect coral reefs.

In a letter to the city commission before the meeting, Carlos Gutierrez, vice president of state and local government affairs for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, cited an article that said the evidence that sunscreens cause coral bleaching is inconclusive.

"For CHPA, this issue is about public health," the statement read. "The stakes are far too high to rush into this product ban, especially when there are no proven benefits to coral reef if you go forward with the ban."

Lezlee Westine, the president and CEO of the Personal Care Products Council, voiced similar opposition in a letter to the commission.

"Ordinance File #18-3253, although well intended, lacks the necessary scientific evidence to demonstrate that these sunscreen ingredients are responsible for coral bleaching," the letter from the council read. "We fear this legislation will create confusion, put consumers' health at risk and potentially discourage the use of sunscreens -- an important part of a safe sun regimen."

The coral reefs are vital to Key West. The Florida Reef Tract is a major part of the state's fishing and tourism industries. The reef system is home to more than 6,000 species of plants, fish and aquatic life, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that species supported by reefs are key to finding new medicines. Reefs also prevent erosion on shorelines that could cause property damage or deaths.

Johnston said at the meeting that she believes Key West's ban will help educate people about the ingredients in the sunscreens they purchase.

"After a bold statement from this commission that we ban these two ingredients, there's not going to be one person who goes into that CVS that doesn't flip it over and take a look at the ingredients, and then make a personal decision on how they want to handle their sunscreen protection."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 36680

Reported Deaths: 1250
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds299254
DeSoto195920
Madison148439
Jones122449
Harrison117716
Rankin112619
Neshoba104677
Forrest103843
Lauderdale96681
Scott82415
Jackson79819
Washington73713
Copiah67016
Leake63420
Lee62822
Oktibbeha61928
Grenada6049
Warren60021
Holmes59541
Lamar5837
Wayne56519
Yazoo5607
Lowndes54817
Leflore53456
Lincoln53335
Lafayette5064
Pike50520
Sunflower5048
Monroe46135
Panola4546
Covington4465
Simpson4433
Bolivar41218
Tate39213
Attala38624
Newton37610
Adams35820
Pontotoc3556
Marion34512
Claiborne30811
Pearl River30332
Winston30111
Chickasaw30019
Marshall2923
Jasper2816
Noxubee2799
Walthall2708
Clay26111
Union25412
Smith25212
Coahoma2306
Clarke22325
Lawrence2132
Yalobusha2089
Tallahatchie1954
Kemper18414
Carroll18211
Montgomery1793
Calhoun1705
Humphreys16910
Hancock14813
Itawamba1478
Tippah14611
Webster13411
Jefferson1283
Prentiss1274
Jefferson Davis1254
Tunica1253
George1233
Greene11610
Amite1123
Alcorn1072
Tishomingo1061
Quitman1011
Wilkinson989
Perry914
Stone772
Choctaw764
Franklin542
Sharkey480
Benton470
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 54768

Reported Deaths: 1096
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6746170
Mobile4904140
Montgomery4547112
Tuscaloosa269053
Madison22689
Marshall198011
Shelby169125
Lee159637
Morgan13385
Baldwin127711
Walker107532
Elmore106721
Etowah101114
Dallas10029
DeKalb9677
Franklin93816
Autauga69815
Russell6860
Unassigned67928
Chambers67730
Butler65229
Limestone6393
Tallapoosa63069
Cullman6156
Houston6077
Lauderdale5776
St. Clair5443
Calhoun5155
Colbert5096
Escambia4888
Lowndes48422
Pike4795
Jackson4352
Coffee4284
Covington41612
Talladega4017
Barbour3992
Dale3951
Bullock37810
Hale35423
Marengo35411
Chilton3312
Blount3201
Clarke3176
Wilcox3038
Winston2995
Sumter29213
Marion29014
Pickens2746
Randolph2639
Monroe2603
Perry2502
Conecuh2318
Bibb2241
Macon2199
Choctaw21712
Greene1989
Henry1553
Washington1488
Lawrence1360
Crenshaw1323
Cherokee1247
Geneva980
Lamar891
Clay852
Fayette851
Coosa661
Cleburne451
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Few Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 92°
Columbus
Few Clouds
92° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 101°
Oxford
Few Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 90°
Starkville
Clear
90° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 93°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather