Maui News

Presentation July 7: “Next Steps Beyond Enactment of Hawaiʻi’s Sunscreen Law”

July 4, 2021, 9:29 AM HST
* Updated July 4, 9:30 AM
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Dr. Craig Downs, Executive Director of Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, gathers coral samples at Honolua Bay on Maui. His groundbreaking research educated the world about sunscreen chemicals and their role in coral reef decline. Downs will be one of the speakers at the free Zoom presentation on “Education vs. Enforcement: Next Steps Beyond the Enactment of Hawaiʻi’s Sunscreen Law” that will be hosted by Maui Nui Marine Resource Council on Wednesday, July 7 at 5:30 pm. Joining him as a presenter will be Hawaiʻi Senator Mike Gabbard, who authored the legislation that resulted in Hawaiʻi’s ban on the sale of sunscreens that contain the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. Image courtesy of Maui Nui Marine Resource Council.

Hawaiʻi’s ban on sunscreens containing the reef-harming chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate went into effect on January 1, but questions relating to enforcement, effectiveness, impacts of replacement chemicals and whether new laws are needed have surfaced.

These topics will be discussed on Wednesday, July 7 at 5:30 p.m. via a free Zoom presentation featuring special guest speakers:

  • Dr. Craig Downs, whose groundbreaking research educated the world about sunscreen chemicals and their role in coral reef decline; and
  • Hawaiʻi Senator Mike Gabbard, who authored the legislation that resulted in Hawaiʻi’s ban on the sale of sunscreens that contain the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate.

The presentation titled “Education vs. Enforcement: Next Steps Beyond the Enactment of Hawaiʻi’s Sunscreen Law” is sponsored by the County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development and is hosted by Maui Nui Marine Resource Council as part of the organization’s “Know Your Ocean Speaker Series.” 

This event is free, but advanced reservations are required.

Downs graduated from Hiram College with a B.A. in philosophy and biology, received his M.Sc. from Syracuse University, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Hawaiʻi in cell and molecular biology. He has published more than 50 scientific papers and a number of book chapters in scientific textbooks, and is the co-editor of the CRC press veterinary book, Diseases of Corals, as well as founded a number of companies and nonprofits relating anywhere from animal welfare to environmental conservation and exploration. 

Downs has held positions as research professor at University of Hawaiʻi’s School of Medicine and Sweet Briar College. He is currently an invited professor at Sorbonne University (France) and is the Executive Director of Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, a non-profit scientific organization dedicated to increasing the scientific, social and economic knowledge of natural environmental habitats in order to better conserve and restore threatened environmental habitats and resources.

Gabbard, who has represented District 20 since 2006, which includes Kapolei, Makakilo, and portions of Kalaeloa, Waipahu, and Ewa, has authored 54 bills that became law relating to energy efficiency, renewable energy, endangered species protection, industrial hemp, the environment, public safety, and more. 

One of those bills that became law in 2018, SB 2571, is the ban of sale or distribution in the state of any sunscreen that contains oxybenzone or octinoxate, or both. Last session, Gabbard introduced SB 366, which would ban the sale, offer of sale, or distribution in Hawaiʻi of any sunscreen that contains two more chemicals, avobenzone or octocrylene.

The speakers plan to address whether or not sunscreen pollution is a symptom of unsustainable tourism and coastal development, how we get visitors and residents to comply with the new sunscreen law and who is responsible for enforcing it.

This panel will also provide information and tips on how you can help to protect the marine environment.

Maui Nui Marine Resource Council’s “Know Your Ocean Speaker Series” events are held monthly via Zoom. Support for these events is provided by the County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development.

Reserve your spot at this free Zoom webinar here.

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