Key West

Bill Would Prevent Banning Sunscreen Sales Over Reef Concerns

Oct 15, 2019

With the sponsor pointing to concerns about skin cancer, a Senate committee Monday approved a measure that would prevent local governments from banning over-the-counter sales of sunscreen.

A Senate panel on Tuesday approved a bill that would threaten local governments with hefty fines if they prohibit the sale of certain sunscreens, though lawmakers dropped an initial part of the bill that would have prevented local officials from banning plastic straws.

The bill targets sunscreens in an attempt to keep Key West from enforcing an ordinance that would ban the sale and use of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, a chemical that a study says harms coral reefs. That ordinance is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.

Key West has become 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.

"There are thousands and thousands of various alternative sunscreens that can be used. But we only have one reef," said Commissioner Jimmy Weekley, one of the sponsors of the ordinance.

It won final approval by a 6-1 vote Tuesday night.

Over the summer, Hawaii became the first place in the United States to ban sunscreens with chemicals that have been found to harm corals. Now Key West is considering a similar ban. And a group opposing the ban is fighting back — online.

If you're in Key West and open a video on YouTube, there's a new ad on heavy rotation.

It's a good idea to protect your skin with sunscreen when you're out on the water.

But protecting reefs means giving up some of the most common sunscreens that can harm corals. Studies have found that some ingredients, especially oxybenzone and octinoxate, are harmful even in very small quantities.

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Lower Keys Medical Center is a publicly owned hospital. But it’s leased to a private for-profit company.

Key West City Commissioner Sam Kaufman supports a move to return the hospital to community control.