Sunscreen: Make Mine "Reef Safe"

Sunscreen: Make Mine "Reef Safe"

Revised: Tuesday, March 17, 2020

TL/DR: Don't use ingredients oxybenzone or octinoxate, or sunscreens with nanoparticles. DO use titanium or zinc dioxide.

Of course you should avoid the reefs at Kaneohe Bay when you finish Pacific Cup. Contact with them would be bad for both your boat and the reefs. But you should also use reef-safe sun screen to help protects those same reefs. It has been found that some of the common chemical components of sun screen are damaging the reefs. As a result, Hawaii has enacted laws banning sun screens with the ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate. The ban will begin in 2021, but Pacific Cup will promote the use of reef-safe sun screens NOW as part of their Sailors for the Sea Clean Regatta commitment.

What is reef-safe sunscreen? According to Consumer Reports the term “reef-safe” does not have an agreed-upon definition and therefore isn’t strictly regulated by government. Apparently, just avoiding the two banned chemical ingredients and changing to a mineral based sun screen isn’t enough. Mineral sun screens composed of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide must also be non-nanotized, meaning that the ingredients are 100 nanometers in diameter or more. The Environmental Working Group provides a Guide to safer sunscreens at https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/executive-summary/.

Sun screen plastic containers are also an issue. Please look for reef-safe sun screens in non-plastic containers. Plastic recycling is becoming less feasible as single-use plastic use keeps increasing. Let’s all work together to keep both damaging chemicals and single use plastics out of our oceans.
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