Maui dermatologist pushes back against new proposed sunscreen ban

Local News

KAHULUI (KHON2) — Another sunscreen ban could be on the horizon if a bill passed by Maui’s County Council is signed into law by Mayor Michael Victorino.

Hawaii was the first state to ban the sale of Oxybenzone and Octinoxate in sunscreens, but Maui County could soon outlaw the sale and use of any other sunscreen that isn’t mineral-based. The county says that a number of non-mineral sunscreens pose a threat to coastal waters, reefs, and marine life. That has driven them to pass the most aggressive ban in the world.

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“What we’ve been told repeatedly by scientists is that passing bans on certain chemical compounds doesn’t work because those are trademarks,” Maui County Councilmember Kelly Takaya King said. “The companies that make those compounds can tweak it a little bit, give it a different trademark name, and all of a sudden it’s not on the banned list.”

Maui Dermatologist Dr. George Martin says that the study finding marine harm used too much of the compounds in sunscreen.

“It was based on creating an artificial reef situation fish tank, where they put in 1,000 times the measurable amounts that have been detected in the reefs in Hawaii,” Dr. Martin said.

Currently, the FDA only finds Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide as safe and effective sunscreen active ingredients. The FDA has yet to release guidance based on research they have been collecting since 2019.

“What we really wanted Maui Council to do was take a pause and wait for the FDA guidance and the National Academy of Science ad hoc committee on sunscreen safety for humans. As well as for our oceans and reefs,” Dr. Martin said.

King argues that the FDA won’t factor in environmental concerns.

“Their rulings have to do with what’s safe and effective for humans. They don’t do testing on the reef system,” she said.

A recent International Journal of Cancer study found that Hawaii has the highest rates of UV-caused melanoma in the United States.

Dr. Martin is concerned the new law will stop some from using sunscreen to protect themselves.

“It turns out that chemical sunscreens are far more effective blockers of Ultraviolet A which causes skin cancers,” Dr. Martin said.

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Mayor Victorino’s office says the bill was sent to him on Monday, Nov. 22, and it is under review. If he signs it, the ban will go into effect on October 1st, 2022.

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