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Florida’s Key West bans sunscreen products to protect coral

Key West city officials have approved a ban on sunscreen products containing two chemicals that studies have found to negatively impact coral and marine organisms.

The Key West City Commission voted 6-1 during its Feb. 5 meeting to pass an ordinance banning the sale or distribution of any sunscreen product containing oxybenzone and/or octinoxate.

Various studies indicate the two chemicals can increase coral bleaching, cause mortality in developing coral and cause genetic damage to corals and other marine organisms.

Key West and the Florida Keys island chain are paralleled by the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef, lying within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

“To me, it boils right down to the fact that there are thousands of sunscreens out there and we have one reef, and we have an opportunity to do one small thing to protect that,” said Key West Mayor Teri Johnston at the meeting. “I believe it’s our obligation.”

The ordinance is to go into effect Jan. 1, 2021, and be enforced through warnings and civil citations. Exceptions are to be made for medically licensed prescriptions.


“Hopefully, other communities in the state of Florida will pick up on this as well and start their process,” said Commissioner Jimmy Weekley.

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