Sen. Linda Stewart addresses the Orlando Climate Strike on Sept. 20; photo via Sen. Linda Stewart/Facebook
Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart is defending legislation that would prohibit the use of sunscreen containing chemicals found harmful to coral reefs.
"A number of recent media reports have mischaracterized SB 318
, relating to the Sale of Sunscreen by Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando)," says a release issued Wednesday by Stewart's legislative office. "My proposal does not discourage the use of sunscreen. I agree with doctors about the short- and long-term benefits of wearing sunscreen and encourage everyone to do so."
Stewart wants the public to know her bill would require over-the-counter sunscreen sold in Florida to be free of oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals shown to contribute to the bleaching of coral reefs
. The chemicals, which are absorbed into the human body when sunscreen is applied, have also been linked to deformities in fish and other aquatic life.
Coral reefs are, of course, critically important to Florida's ecosystem, acting as a water filtration system and as habitats for fish reproduction. They also protect coasts against storm surges and erosion.
Recent attempts by individual Florida cities to regulate which sunscreens are allowed in the water have been resisted by Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican sponsoring a “preemption” bill (SB 172),
denying cities and counties the ability to regulate sunscreen themselves. In fact, another Senate proposal would bar the state's tourism-promotion organization, Visit Florida
, from mentioning cities that enact sunscreen restrictions.
Stewart cited a report from the Florida Legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, which points to several studies finding that "oxybenzone caused complete bleaching" and "octinoxate exposure affects many biological processes" in certain fish species.
Stewart says the criticism of her bill is misguided, since many types of alternative sunscreens are already available, for example, ones using zinc oxide. She noted these are both recommended by dermatologists and do not degrade with sun exposure. She advises looking for sunscreens labeled as "Reef Safe."
"Some companies would rather ignore the environmental impacts to protect their bottom line," said Stewart. "My legislation offers a way to protect our skin while preserving our environment."
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