SB 588, an already bad bill that bans local straw ordinances, got a lot worse in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee last week. The bill was amended to add a ban on local sunscreen ordinances, like the one recently passed in Key West.

Key West followed Hawaii’s lead and banned two chemicals in sunscreen that are known to impact coral reefs. Unsurprisingly, coral reefs are immensely economically valuable to Florida, and to the Florida Keys particularly. NOAA estimates that Florida’s coral reefs have an asset value of $8.5 billion and are responsible for 70,400 full and part-time jobs (NOAA The Value of Coral Ecosystems). Healthy reefs drive economic and recreational opportunities for snorkeling/diving, wildlife viewing, recreational sports fishing, and more. Coral reefs also provide protection from hurricanes and storm events. One recent study estimated that coral reefs may reduce wave energy by up 97% (Ferrario, Filippo, The effectiveness of coral reefs for coral hazard risk reduction and adaptation). Sometimes referred to as the “rainforests of the sea”, coral reefs provide homes for innumerable species, including many important recreational and subsistence fisheries species. Unfortunately, coral reefs are increasingly suffering from human impacts- from warming seas and ocean acidification, to disease, to invasive species. 

That is why it is so critically important to take action on the destructive effects of oxybenzone and octinoxate.  As a chemical UV filter, oxybenzone is added to nearly 70 percent of non-mineral sunscreens and commonly washes into our ocean when applied at the beach, harming our coral reef ecosystems. The National Park Service estimates that between 4,000 and 6,000 tons of sunscreen enter reef areas annually (NPS, The Impacts of Sunscreen on Coral Reefs). Along with damaging coral DNA and inhibiting its ability to reproduce, oxybenzone causes deformities in coral reefs, makes them more susceptible to bleaching. There is also emerging research that shows concern for human impacts from exposure to oxybenzone. Studies have found that oxybenzone is a possible endocrine disruptor, commonly causes photo-contact allergic dermatitis, and has been linked to Hirschsprung’s disease (Haerticus Environmental Laboratory, http://www.haereticus-lab.org/oxybenzone-2/)

This bill has already passed its first committee stop in the Senate and is now heading to Community Affairs. Please take a moment to call the Committee Chair, Senator Flores at (850) 487-5039, and ask her to keep SB 588 off the agenda.