letter to the editor

Reef Relief to City: Vote Yes on Chemical Sunscreen Ban

Dear Editor,

Reef Relief strongly encourages the City Commission and the residents of Key West to support a proposed ordinance stating that it shall be unlawful to sell, offer for sale, or distribute for sale in the City of Key West any SPF sunscreen protection personal care product that contains Oxybenzone or Octinoxate, or both, without a medically-licensed prescription. As a leader in preserving and protecting our coral reef ecosystems for over 31 years, Reef Relief prides ourselves for focusing only rigorous science as a tool to educate our Key West community and visitors. There are numerous scientific studies that have led to the conclusion that chemicals Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are harmful to coral reefs, other marine life, and even our own bodies. We highly recommend that the City of Key West pass this Ordinance in order to preserve one of the most biodiverse and fragile ecosystems in the world.

The vast majority of issues regarding the health of our coral reef ecosystems are human related. In the past 20 years, over half of Florida’s Barrier Reef has disappeared due to poor water quality, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, and contact with a large portion of the 3 million tourists that visit Key West every year. It is nearly too late for our corals; therefore, it is extremely important that we act now in order to secure a future for the reef. Passing this ordinance is finally our chance to set precedence for the rest of the Florida Keys, the State of Florida, and our nation.

There are numerous effects chemicals such as Oxybenzone and Octinoxate have on our coral reef ecosystems. These chemicals have been found to damage coral DNA, disrupt critical growth during coral’s juvenile stage, and makes corals more susceptible to disease and bleaching. It has been found to cause many allergic reactions in humans and is linked to Hirschsprung’s disease. The American Contact Dermatitis Society even listed Oxybenzone at the 2014 Allergen of the Year.

Not only does mineral based sunscreen better protect from the sun’s powerful rays but, it is just as accessible to the general public as chemical sunscreen. Many leading sunscreen companies already offer mineral based sunscreen products. Since major brands currently provide ocean friendly alternatives, a year-long phase out of products containing Oxybenzone and Octinoxate would be extremely feasible.

We know the negative affects chemical sunscreens have on the coral reefs, marine animals, and our human health. We know the advantages of mineral sunscreens and that it is readily available to the community and visitors. This is not a matter of liking sunscreen or not, it is a matter of protecting our skin and protecting our reefs for many generations to come. The Reef Relief staff and board fully supports ocean friendly sunscreen and advises the City Commissioners and City Major to support the Sunscreen Ordinance at the City Commission meeting on January 15th.


Millard McCleary, Executive Program Director

Reef Relief

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