A new county law went into effect yesterday on Maui. It’s something visitors should take note of since there is a fine of up to $1,000 possible for violating the new ruling.
The bottom line is this. Don’t use any chemical sunscreen on Maui. Otherwise, you might get a warning or a fine of up to $1,000. The only exception is for persons who have a prescription.
Maui County Council felt that the state ban that went into effect last year was inadequate in addressing the multiple chemicals in sunscreens damaging the island’s fragile ecosystems. The issue is that the banned chemicals can have slightly different versions, making them not technically prohibited according to state law.
Effective October 1, 2022, no chemical-based sunscreens can be used, sold, or distributed on Maui. That means you can’t bring a banned sunscreen and use it on Maui. This goes further than most other bans and provides warnings and substantial fines for using illegal sunscreens rather than just prohibiting their sale and distribution. We wonder how well visitors will be informed about the new law. If you live here, of course, you probably know about it.
Fines up to $1,000 are possible. But how likely is that?
The ordinance provides for fines up to $1,000. For now, warnings are more likely, although we’ve heard nothing about enforcement. You can read the new law below. Enforcement is said to be based on complaints received. Does that mean someone may call the police if they see you spraying a chemical sunscreen instead of applying a non-chemical white cream? We were told that a second warning is when fines may start to be in effect.
Similar Big Island law goes into effect on December 1.
The law there also prohibits the sale and distribution of sunscreens that are chemical rather than physical in their makeup. Taking a more conservative approach than $30 beach parking wielding Maui, Hawaii county has its own law about to take effect. That county isn’t going to try to enforce what people use but only control the distribution and availability in stores.
The State of Hawaii remains ahead of many other places in banning sunscreens that are damaging to marine environments and coral reefs.
So far, the state has only a ban on two ingredients, oxybenzone and octinoxate. Those are perhaps the two most common chemicals found in thousands of sunscreens. That law went into effect on January 1, 2021.
The state is contemplating enacting a broader ban on chemical sunscreens, somewhat like what the Big Island will be doing.
“Our natural environment is fragile, and our own interaction with the earth can have lasting impacts…. This new law is just one step toward protecting the health and resiliency of Hawaii’s coral reefs.” — Governor David Ige.
Other beach destinations with sunscreen bans; more are coming.
US Virgin Islands. Effective 2021, chemical sunscreens and importation/sale of sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate.
Bonaire. The island banned the sale of chemical sunscreens in 2021.
Key West, Florida. A subsequent statewide act struck down a law banning chemical sunscreens.
Palau. The first country to ban chemical sunscreens. That law went into effect in 2020.
Aruba. Sunscreens containing oxybenzone have been prohibited since 2020.
Vast quantities of sunscreen chemicals enter the water.
One issue is that a significant percentage of sunscreen that is applied makes its way into the water. Over time with Maui’s enormous number of visitors, huge amounts of sunscreen end up in Hawaii’s coral reefs. This is believed to cause coral damage, bleaching, DNA injury, starvation, and reproductive and development issues. Reefs are an integral part of our marine ecosystem and are essential to the environment. According to NOAA, “coral reefs buffer adjacent shorelines from wave action and prevent erosion, property damage and loss of life.”
JAMA study said chemical sunscreens are more dangerous than previously revealed.
Children are more at risk than adults. The study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that “sunscreen products containing avobenzone, oxybenzone, Ecamsule, and octocrylene need far more research. One concern is that blood concentration of the chemicals can be found after just one day of sunscreen use. These rise with continued use and applications. JAMA questioned if these products can be considered “generally regarded as safe and effective.”
“Oxybenzone… has been found in human breast milk (and) in amniotic fluid, urine, and blood… Some studies…have raised questions about the potential for oxybenzone to affect endocrine activity.” — JAMA