USVI Passes Law Banning Toxic Sunscreen

St. Croix USVI
St. Croix USVI // NAPA74/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

A new law enacted in the U.S. Virgin Islands bans the importation, sale and distribution of sunscreen containing oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene, otherwise known as the “toxic 3 O’s."

The USVI is now the first territory to respect the FDA’s recent announcement recognizing only zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (mineral sunscreen) as appropriate sunscreen ingredients. The legislation adds the ingredient octocrylene to the chemicals banned in Hawaii and Key West, making safer mineral sunscreens the only choice. The full ban goes into effect on March 30, 2020, with certain limitations beginning immediately.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), oxybenzone is hazardous to coral and the overall wellbeing of the reef. Effective Immediately upon Governor Albert Bryan Jr.’s signing, retailers are not able to place new orders for sunscreen containing toxic ingredients and cannot receive shipments after September 30, 2019. Banning octocrylene is especially important because it is often used alongside other dangerous chemicals like avobenzone.


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The “toxic 3 Os” in sunscreen are exposed to the water when users swim, which cause coral bleaching. “Zombie” coral looks healthy but has a host of health issues. The chemicals also get into the ocean when waste water and runoff is dumped into the sea. Fortunately, coral can turn back to normal once the chemicals are out of the sea.

Non-nano mineral sunscreen containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide protect against the sun and do not harm coral. Rash guards and hats can also be used to protect oneself.

Note: A list of more than 300 coral-safe sunscreens can be found at the Island Green Living Association.

In early June, the danger of toxic sunscreen spiked in attention because of President Bill Clinton, who credited Wickrema for teaching him about the “toxic 3 Os” during his speech at the USVI CGI Post-Disaster Recovery Event. Clinton proceeded to tell attendees to use coral-safe sunscreen. “We’ve got to do this,” he said.

In other USVI news, the territory is planning a new American Airlines service to St. Thomas, U.S Virgin Islands, from Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago O'Hare, starting December 21. Flights depart Dallas-Fort Worth at 10:35 a.m. CT and arrive on St. Thomas at 5:35 p.m. Atlantic Standard Time; Chicago flights depart at 8:20 a.m. CT and arrive on St. Thomas at 3:15 p.m. Atlantic Standard Time.

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