The U.S. Virgin Islands Becomes the First American Jurisdiction to Ban Common Chemical Sunscreens

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A Gorgonian sea fan on a coral reef. Beachgoers in the United States Virgin Islands will be slathering on more ecologically friendly sunscreens next year after lawmakers voted to ban common chemical sunscreen ingredients that can damage coral reefs. With the ban, the U.S. Virgin Islands joins a handful of other jurisdictions around the world pioneering action on harmful sunscreens. It targets one more ingredient than most similar laws, however, and will be the first to take effect in the U.S. and among the first internationally. The new law, passed unanimously in the U.S. Virgin Islands’ legislature on June 25th, targets oxybenzone, octocrylene, and octinoxate, three UV-blocking chemicals found in most mainstream commercial sunscreen products in the U.S. Studies have shown they harm coral and other marine ecosystems. Imports of sunscreens containing the chemicals will be outlawed as of September 30th, 2019; the ban on their distribution, sale, possession, and use will take effect March 30th, 2020. Craig Downs, executive director of the Virginia-based non-profit Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, said outlawing harmful sunscreen ingredients is "low hanging fruit" when it comes to addressing threats to fragile reef ecosystems. "Degraded water quality," to which sunscreen pollution contributes, represents "the greatest nemesis […]

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