Could Hawaii's ban on sunscreen invoke a similar ban in San Diego?

Posted at 5:33 PM, May 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-04 20:36:18-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Hawaii recently passed a ban on sunscreens containing certain chemicals deemed harmful to their coral reefs.

With more than 70 miles of coastline in San Diego County, the question of whether a similar ban could affect our region has been brought to light.

The chemicals in question are oxybenzone or octinoxate, both of which are found in many commonly purchased sunscreens.

RELATED: What ingredients to avoid, look for in reef-safe sunscreens

A study by the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory found the chemicals seep into young coral and lead to coral bleaching, which occurs when an increase in sea temperatures kills the algae that grow inside coral, turning reefs white. This eliminates other nutrients that sustain marine life.

Researchers say 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion gets into reefs around the world every year.

We asked our 10News Facebook fans how they would feel about a similar ban in California. At press time, 81 percent said they would support similar legislation in our state:

When asked for comment regarding a similar California ban, the Governor's Office told 10News they do not comment on any potential legislation and there is currently no bill in the works.

While San Diego doesn't have a robust coral ecosystem, the region is home to scenic coastlines that draw tourists from all over the world and off-shore fishing that fisherman enjoy just the same.

RELATED: Hawaii moves to ban certain sunscreens to save coral reefs

"The physical block more hitting and going away, the more chemical blockers are causing a chemical reaction," Mark Vierra, a dermatologist in Rancho Bernardo, told 10News. "You think about the old surfer with the white on the nose, people didn't always love that but now they're micronized, so I have a physical block on now and it doesn't look totally white."

There are no studies on how sunscreens affect San Diego's coastline, which is home more to kelp forests than coral reefs. For now, Vierra suggests picking one and sticking with it.

"I always want patients to pick one that they like and they'll use consistently and reapply," Vierra said. "That's probably more important than which individual one you pick."