Sunscreen Chemical Harms Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay



Oxybenzone is a commonly used chemical in skincare products, especially sunscreen. It is known to cause skin irritation, allergies, and even hormone disruption.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, ( the most flagged chemical as potentially worrisome is oxybenzone. Humans are not the only ones being harmed by oxybenzone. The environment is also being harmed by it due to the pollution that it causes. Oxybenzone acts as a toxicant to coral reefs. This disrupts its endocrine, which damages its DNA, resulting in killing its offspring. 

In particular, oxybenzone has caused a vast amount of harm to the coral reefs of the Hanauma Bay, located in Hawaii. The issue has gone so far that as of May 2018, oxybenzone has been banned in Hawaii. According to the legislature of Hawaii, oxybenzone has made a significant impact on Hawaii’s marine environment and shorelines. 

According to Hawaii Public Radio,  Scientist Craig Downs stated, “Sunscreen pollution is about one of 100 to 1000 cuts a coral reef can experience, and it’s really location dependent.” ( Downs also stated, clean water is a major factor in improving the harming of coral reefs. When reefs are surrounded by good quality water, they can recover from bleaching.

In 2021, Honolulu limited the number of visitors allowed at Hanauma. The average number of visitors typically averaged a total of 3,500. Now, there are a maximum of 1,000 people visiting each day. Researchers are hoping this change will help reduce contaminant loads and help them determine another more helpful carrying capacity program for Hanauma Bay.