On July 3, 2018, Governor David Ige of Hawaii signed SB 2571 into law, banning the sale or distribution of any “SPF sunscreen protection personal care product” that contains chemicals oxybenzone or octinoxate without a prescription issued by a licensed healthcare provider. “SPF sunscreen protection personal care product” is broadly defined to include, without limitation, any lotion, paste, balm, ointment, cream, solid stick applicator, brush applicator, roll-on applicator, aerosol spray, non-aerosol spray pump, and automated and manual mist spray. The ban, which Governor Ige indicated is intended to protect marine ecosystems including coral reefs, will go into effect on January 1, 2021. Estimates indicate that at least 70 percent of sunscreen products contain oxybenzone or octinoxate.
Hawaii is the first state to enact a law banning the use of these chemicals in sunscreen products. Sunscreen manufacturers, retailers and industry associations including the Hawaii Food Industry Association, Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, Personal Care Products Council and Hawaii Medical Association oppose the new law. Among the reasons for opposition to the law are concerns over the effect of banning products that defend against skin cancer and questions regarding the validity of the scientific research on the negative effects the chemicals purportedly have on the environment.
The new law will likely have far-reaching implications. Although Hawaii is the only state that has enacted a law of this nature at this time, it creates logistical issues for retailers and manufactures who sell or distribute sunscreen products in multiple states including Hawaii. Barring a successful legal challenge to the law, oxybenzone and octinoxate will need to be removed across product lines, or separate products sold in Hawaii that do not include the chemicals. The effects of the law will not be limited to Hawaii and could be significant.