By Ruby Pap

Waters sampled off Po‘ipū beach, Kauai’s popular tourist destination and premier snorkel spot, were found to have levels of oxybenzone of 281-419 parts per trillion. Photo by Ruby Pap

Waters sampled off Po‘ipū beach, Kauai’s popular tourist destination and premier snorkel spot, were found to have levels of oxybenzone of 281-419 parts per trillion. Photo by Ruby Pap

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is asking all ocean users in Hawai‘i to avoid sunscreen containing oxybenzone, also known as BP-3, due to scientific research showing the chemical’s harmful effects on coral. New, unpublished data show Kauai’s reefs are also at risk.

“Sunscreen chemicals wash of swimmers, surfers, paddlers, spearfishers, divers, and other ocean users,” said Dr. Bruce Anderson, administrator at the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources. “Even if you’re just sunbathing on the beach, using beach showers will wash chemicals into the ocean. Researchers have found oxybenzone concentrations in some Hawaiian waters at more than 30 times the level considered safe for corals.”

Dr. Craig Downs, of Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Virginia, published research in Hawai‘i last year, spurring DLNR’s request for ocean users to avoid sunscreen containing the harmful chemical.

His original research contained ocean water-sampling data from O‘ahu and Maui, but did not include Kaua‘i’s waters. However, last month, Downs shared with For Kaua‘i Newspaper some yet-to-be-published data about Kaua‘i; and the results show high concentrations of BP-3 at select North and South Shore locations.

On the left is a healthy, juvenile coral, about 5mm long. On the right is a coral exposed to oxybenzone for eight hours. Photo by Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology

On the left is a healthy, juvenile coral, about 5mm long. On the right is a coral exposed to oxybenzone for eight hours. Photo by Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology</