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Key Westers Hope To Lead The State On Greater Sunscreen Action

A snorkeler visits the coral reef off the Florida Keys.
Environmental Protection Agency
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

When Key West city commissioners approved a ban on the sale of some sunscreens, some said it wasn't just to protect the reef that has protected the island for centuries.

Commissioner Jimmy Weekley said Key West is leading the continental U.S., and is already receiving global attention for its action.

"Key West, the 3-by-5-mile island, is going to take a major step to help preserve our environment — the environment of every citizen of the world," he said.

With a 6-1 vote Tuesday night, Key West became the first place in the mainland U.S. to ban the sale of sunscreens containing two chemicals that have been found in some studies to harm corals.

The city is hoping to avoid a legal fight. That's one reason the commission delayed the effective date of the ban until January 2021, the same time as Hawaii's.

"If there is going to be a legal challenge to this, I would rather let the coffers of the state of Hawaii fend off the legal challenge, than our city attorney's office," said City Commissioner Gregory Davila, who is an attorney.

Davila voted in favor of the delay in effective date - but wound up as the lone "no" vote against the ban itself.

Commissioners said they have heard from elected officials in other Florida cities who want to take a similar step. And Linda Stewart, a state senator from Orange County, has introduced a bill for this legislative session that would ban the sale of sunscreens with the same chemicals from the entire state.

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.