A measure that would require the University of Hawaii to study the effects of sunscreen on Hawaii’s coral reef was passed by the House Ocean, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

The study called for in HB 1765 would “include recommendations on how to mitigate the detrimental effects to coral, if any, caused by sunscreen, giving due consideration to the need to protect the coral reefs and the possible impact that mitigation measures may have on residents and visitors who use sunscreen.”

Nathan Eagle/Honolulu Civil Beat
Coral reefs may be susceptible to damage from sunscreen, especially at tourist-heavy locations 

UH Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman and Ruth D. Gates, director and coral biologist for the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, said in written testimony that Oahu reefs at Hanauma Bay and Waikiki see “heavy tourist traffic and have a measurable concentrations of sunscreen chemical.”

Haereticus Environmental Laboratory has reported that oxybenzone, a chemical found in most sunscreens, “poses an ecological and existential threat to corals and coral reefs.”

The measure was approved unanimously. It must still be considered by the committees on Higher Education and Finance.

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