HB 113 and SB 172, which will prohibit local governments from regulating harmful chemicals in sunscreen, have passed through all committees in both the State House and State Senate and are likely to come to the House as a floor vote soon. The Legislature should not pass these ill-advised bills, which will likely lead to damaged coral reefs off Florida’s coasts.
This bill is a preemption of local governments’ abilities to regulated specific chemicals in sunscreen, known to cause damage to coral reefs. HB 172 (the companion bill to HB 113) was approved in the Senate, but Democrats stood strong against this bill. Nearly all Democratic senators voted against this bad-for-the-environment bill, which violates local governments’ abilities to protect their local environments.
The Senate votes show the public the differences between Democrats and Republicans on environmental issues. We believe demonstrating this key difference can swing No Party Affiliation (NPA) in 2020.
Sunscreens without these chemicals are available. Here is a link to a peer-reviewed review article published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology in 2018. These chemicals are not necessary to protect a person’s skin from UV rays.
Without this bill, local governments can choose to prohibit the local sale of sunscreens that include these damaging chemicals. That is not anti-sunscreen. That is anti-damage to our natural environment and economy.
Republican Sen. Rob Bradley (SB 172 sponsor) claims that not enough sunscreen washes off a person to actually do damage to coral reefs. Science does not support that.
In a Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology article, the authors say, “… 96% of the remaining dose is available to be washed off and enter various waterways. Corroborating this point, a 2008 study estimated that 4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreens were washed off in tourist reef areas annually; as of 2017, scientists are estimating that 8,000 to 16,000 tons of sunscreen is finding its way onto reefs.”
The damage these chemicals cause to coral reefs is relatively undisputed within the scientific community.
Here is a link to a simple graphic from NOAA that describes the harmful effects of some of these chemicals on sea life.
Here is a link to a video that describes the effects on coral reefs.
The State Senate in Hawaii approved a statewide ban on these sunscreen chemicals in 2017.
This simply means that sunscreens without these chemicals can be sold on the islands. People might still bring sunscreens with these chemicals with them, but the amount of chemicals put into the waterways is reduced.
If we are going to violate local governments’ autonomy, perhaps a better approach would be to ban these chemicals across the state of Florida entirely.
We are peninsula with ample coastline and corals. Like Hawaii, we rely on tourism, which, in turn, relies on our healthy and beautiful environment.
We realize that Democrats are outnumbered in the Senate, but this year, it is important to show the difference between the two parties on environmental issues.
Janelle J. Christensen is the president of the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.