Key West takes step toward banning sunscreens harmful to coral reefs

Key West takes step toward banning sunscreens harmful to coral reefs

Officials in Key West, Fla., took the first step toward banning the sale of sunscreens that contain ingredients considered harmful to coral reefs.

The Key West City Commission voted unanimously 7-0 on Tuesday to to pass the measure, according to the Miami Herald. The measure must be reviewed and voted on again next month before it can become law.


The harmful ingredients -- oxybenzone and octinoxate -- are found in most sunscreens and have been linked to damaging coral reefs.

"They have alternatives to these two chemicals,” said City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley, who sponsored the measure. “This is to me something we need to do in this community to protect our economy. What if we don’t pass this and three to five years down the road we have no reef?”

“This may be our last shot. It’s not the major cause of the loss of our reef,” Weekley said. “But this is one reason we can do something about. We can take a step to eliminate those chemicals going into our water.”

Only one commissioner, Sam Kaufman, told the Herald he may not vote for the measure next month.

Dermatologists who attended the public vote voiced concerns that a ban on certain sunscreens could dissuade people from using the products and lead to an increase in skin cancer.

Commission Greg Davila shared similar concerns.

“We will definitely be limiting our residents to the best sunscreens available,” Davila said. “The downside of passing this is cancer.”

Hawaii last year became the first state to ban the sale and distribution of sunscreens containing the ingredients, starting in 2021.