Key West city officials approved a ban on sunscreen products containing two chemicals that have been shown to negatively impact coral and marine organisms. The Key West City Commission voted 6-1 during its February 5 meeting to pass an ordinance banning the sale or distribution of any sunscreen product containing oxybenzone or octinoxate, starting in 2021.
The ordinance will go into effect January 1, 2021 and will be enforced through warnings and civil citations. Exceptions are to be made for medically licensed prescriptions. Hawaii passed similar legislation last year, banning the sale or distribution of sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate, also starting January 1, 2021.
Key West and the Florida Keys island chain are paralleled by the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef, lying within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Studies have indicated that the two chemicals can increase coral bleaching, cause mortality in developing coral and cause genetic damage to corals and other marine organisms.
“To me, it boils right down to the fact that there are thousands of sunscreens out there and we have one reef, and we have an opportunity to do one small thing to protect that,” said Key West mayor Teri Johnston at the meeting. “I believe it’s our obligation.”