A number of recent media reports have mischaracterized SB 318, relating to the Sale of Sunscreen by Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando), suggesting that the bill would place a burden on Floridians who want to protect themselves from the effects of sun exposure, while ignoring the environmental concerns and availability of alternatives.
“My proposal does not discourage the use of sunscreen,” said Stewart. “I agree with doctors about the short- and long-term benefits of wearing sunscreen and encourage everyone to do so. My bill would simply require sunscreen available over-the-counter in Florida to be free of oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals which research has shown contribute to the bleaching of coral reefs, lead to deformities in fish and other aquatic life, and threaten the general health of our oceans.”
Thriving coral reefs are critically important, especially here in Florida. Not only do they act as a water filtration system and habitat for fish reproduction, they offer protection against storm surge and coastline erosion. A recent report from the Florida Legislature’s non-partisan Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability cited several studies that examined the effect of sunscreens on coral reefs and other aquatic life. The studies found that “oxybenzone caused complete bleaching” and “octinoxate exposure affects many biological processes” in certain fish species.
Additionally, there are many alternative sunscreens already available to Floridians, that not only offer superior protection from the sun, but are less damaging to our reefs as well. For example, sunscreens that use zinc oxide (instead of oxybenzone or octinoxate) are recommended by some dermatologists as they provide full spectrum UVA and UVB protection, do not degrade with sun exposure, and are less likely to irritate skin or induce an allergic reaction.
Some companies have already re-formulated their sunscreens, and many “Reef Safe” sunscreens are already widely-available without these chemicals, but other sunscreen makers are resistant to change.
“Some companies would rather ignore the environmental impacts to protect their bottom line,” said Stewart. “My legislation offers a way to protect our skin while preserving our environment.”