Key West bans sunscreens deemed harmful to coral reefs

Key West bans sunscreens deemed harmful to coral reefs

Key West city officials voted Tuesday to ban sunscreens containing two chemicals that are deemed harmful to coral reefs.

The Key West City Commission voted 6-1 to ban the sale of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. The ban will go into effect at the beginning of 2021, according to the Associated Press.

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The coral reef along the Florida Keys is the last remaining coral barrier reef in the continental U.S., and Key West Mayor Teri Johnston said the city has an “obligation” to protect it.

"We have one reef, and we have to do one small thing to protect that," Johnston said, according to the Miami Herald.

Hawaii enacted a similar ban on sunscreens last year, which will also go into effect in 2021.

Scientists say the chemicals commonly found in sunscreen can bleach the corals, leading to their death. A majority of sunscreens sold in the U.S. contain one of the two chemicals now banned by both Key West and Hawaii.

Only one commissioner, Greg Davila, dissented in the Tuesday vote. He said residents should be able to choose which type of sunscreen they use.

Davila also argued that the city should first allow Hawaii to take up the legal challenges of the ban before Key West enacts a similar measure.

"I'd rather have the coffers of the state of Hawaii defend the legal challenge," Davila said, according to the Herald. "I'd much rather let Hawaii deal with that expense.”