Hawaii Just Voted to Ban Sunscreen That Harms Coral

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iStock

The widespread death of coral reefs across the planet's oceans in recent decades is the result of several factors—most of them human-made. Now, Hawaii's legislators have taken a major step toward keeping one notorious coral-killer out of its waters. As Gizmodo reports, Hawaii has passed the first law of its kind banning sunscreens with certain chemicals.

The compounds oxybenzone and octinoxate can be found in more than 3500 of the world's top sunscreen brands. Both serve a key role in chemical sunscreen formulas by protecting skin from UV rays, but once they've washed off into the water, they can have a devastating impact on marine life.

According to a 2015 study published in the journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, oxybenzone hurts coral in two ways: It prevents coral larvae from developing normally, and it poisons the symbiotic algae that reside in coral. These algae provide coral with an oxygen source and help clear out their waste, as well as giving reefs their vibrant appearance. If the algae abandon the coral, the reef accumulates waste and gradually turns white—a process know as bleaching. A 2016 study found that octinoxate in addition to oxybenzone can stunt the growth of baby coral.

Sunscreen brands like L’Oréal claim the evidence isn't strong enough to justify the ban, but Hawaii lawmakers felt differently: On Tuesday, May 1, 72 of the state's 76 legislators voted in favor of it. Democratic Governor David Ige has yet to sign the bill into law, but Hawaiian businesses are already clearing their shelves of chemical sunscreens in anticipation of it.

The waters of Hawaii are home to more than 410,000 acres of coral reefs. The island chain also attracts millions of sunscreen-slathered tourists each year, making it a natural spot for the world's first-ever ban on harmful chemical sunscreens. Of all the sunscreen that melts off swimmers' bodies when they enter the ocean, 14,000 tons of it ends up in coral reefs. Banning oxybenzone and octinoxate won't solve the coral bleaching epidemic completely—global warming and ocean acidification are the biggest culprits—but it is a start.

Even if you don't live in Hawaii, you can still choose to buy sunscreen that's easier on the environment. Look for sunscreen brands with simple formulas that feature biodegradable, non-nano-size ingredients (super-tiny nanoparticles in sunscreen are thought to harm marine invertebrates). Instead of these compounds, the brand Stream2Sea uses titanium dioxide coated with alumina to protect against the Sun's rays.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

Fun Fact: More Than 75 National Forests Will Let You Chop Down Your Own Christmas Tree

Want a holiday tree? Drop by your nearest national forest.
Want a holiday tree? Drop by your nearest national forest.
Artem Baliaikin, Pexels

While plenty of people celebrate the holiday season with a neat and tidy artificial Christmas tree, there’s nothing quite like having the smell of fresh evergreen fir needles littering your floor. But before you head to your nearest tree farm or Walmart, think about a national forest instead. More than 75 of them will let you chop your own tree. Best of all, it’s actually good for the forests.

The United States Forest Service encourages people to grab a holiday tree from their land because it means less competition for room and sunlight for the remaining trees and allows wildlife to flourish. All you have to do is find your nearest national forest at Recreation.gov and apply for a permit—usually $10 or so—to begin chopping. The Forest Service recommends selecting trees no larger than 12 to 15 feet in height, with a 6-inch trunk diameter. They usually ask that you select a tree roughly 200 feet away from roads or campgrounds and make sure you let someone know where you’re going in case you get lost.

Different forests have different species of trees and slightly different rules, so it’s best to check with the forest for their guidelines before you rev up the chainsaw. And no, tree traffickers, you can’t harvest trees for resale.

[h/t CNN]