Sunscreen’s synthetic estrogen affects reefs

Let’s weigh in on the proposed countywide “toxic sunscreen” bill to restrict the sale and use of personal care products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate.

It’ll be fun, and here’s why it’s important!

The two chemicals have been around since the 1970s and they act like estrogen — strengthening anything made of calcium, spurring growth and throwing off the natural balance of hormones that all living things possess.

Dr. Craig Downs, a Maui native who earned his Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology from UH-Manoa, has been researching their effects on corals since 2005.

His and other worldwide scientific studies show that when corals are exposed to these chemicals in sunscreens, they have less ability to fight bleaching events, and they can no longer successfully reproduce or seed other reefs. (They’re basically dead dudes.)

When we use these sunscreens on our bodies (and our kids’ bodies), the synthetic estrogens are detected in our urine 20 minutes after application. Men have lower sperm counts, and breast cancer metastasizes more rapidly. I love embodying the feminine, but I doubt we want everyone in Maui Nui’s waters to become more feminized.

If you can’t make it in person to testify in support of this bill, email your thoughts to the Maui County Council. (Find all members’ addresses at mauicounty.us/ councilmembers/.)

As I said to the Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee during their reading: Our reefs face many threats from many quarters, but this is one we can eliminate now. Let’s do this!

Amy Fonarow

Haiku

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