The Sunscreen We Wear is Endangering Coral Reefs

Living in South Florida, there is a need for sunscreen. Some sun protection might come at the price of the ocean’s coral reefs. But a Florida state senator has plans of banning sunscreens entirely because of the potential harm that it’s causing the marine life.  

A bill has been proposed by senator Linda Stewart that would require a prescription to use sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate. Those are two chemicals that are found in most sunscreens that effectively protect against UV radiation, which can also cause coral bleaching, which can kill the reefs in the future. “Reef-safe” sunscreens leave out the octinoxate and oxybenzone for others, like FDA-approved zinc oxide, which would take their place on store shelves. 

Stewart told CNN that the bill was modeled after others that were ones passed in Key West and Hawaii. They eliminated the sale of all of the sunscreens with the two chemicals that protect the nearby reefs, which are crucial to the islands’ marine biodiversity and the tourism economy. 

Why Are Reefs Important?

“If reefs continue to die, then the global coastlines would take a serious hit,” according to Coral reefs are the natural protectors for coastlines as they absorb 97% of the energy that the wave has, which can prevent erosion and potential property damage incurred from storms and currents. That is what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.   

They are home to 25% of all marine life, which is serving as tropical rainforests, which are protecting the ocean’s biodiversity. However, they are always under attack as the chemicals in sunscreens are not the only thing that can be considered the coral’s only enemy. According to NOAA, there is also the climbing ocean temperatures and the pollution which have killed at least 30% of the world’s reefs, which is causing heat stress and mass bleaching events. 

NOAA recommends getting “reef-safe” sunscreens and covering up. On the trip to the beach, make sure to cover up and wearing UV sunglasses and long sleeve shirts. The more you are covered, the better the sunscreen does protect you and your family. 


Dermatologist believes that it could cause skin cancer, and it can rise to create a stigma around sun protection in Hawaii and Key West, which is where the ban was passed. It’s been assured by the American Academy of Dermatology that sunscreen remains a valid form of sun protection despite any claims that it was toxic to the health of humans. In a statement released months before Hawaii passed the law in 2018, they were deemed “unproven.” 

The most common cancer in the US is skin cancer. In 2009 there were 66,000 people with skin cancer, and in 2016, there were over 82,000, according to a study made by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Did you know that Florida is the second-highest rate of melanoma in the country? It’s mostly due to the proximity to the equator, where the UV rays are the strongest. 

If it’s approved, Stewart’s ban will go into effect in July of 2020. However, she’s already received comments from fellow legislators and doctors. “The reason for this bill is just to make sure that discourages the use of those two chemicals,” she said.