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Reef-Safe Sunscreen Dispenser Installed at Big Island Beach Park

November 19, 2021, 4:06 PM HST
* Updated November 23, 10:14 AM
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The first non-chemical sunscreen dispenser in a Hawai‘i State Park was unveiled this morning, Nov. 19, on the Big Island.

Dena Sedar, an interpretive specialist with the DLNR Division of State Parks (DSP), coordinated the partnership that funded the sunscreen station at the Waialea section of Hāpuna State Recreation Area.

Sedar and other ocean advocates were on hand this morning to greet beach visitors with information on coral reef protection and the detrimental impacts chemical-based sunscreens have on corals, which are considered the foundation for healthy oceans.

“Certainly, there has been great progress and increased awareness from both visitors and residents about the damage chemical sunscreens cause,” Sedar noted. “However, I still cringe when I see people applying chemical sunscreens or using aerosols. I want to approach them and explain that this is damaging the very reefs they’re about to snorkel on.”

On Friday, Sedar invited a man to be the first person to use some mineral sunscreen, which contains either zinc or titanium. Another man then slathered his head with the free sunscreen product. When asked. other visitors told Sedar that they either had already applied sunscreen or had some with them.

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Sedar hopes the very visible dispenser at Waialea Bay will see heavy use. It was identified as a good place to start due to its extensive coral cover and the fact it was impacted greatly by coral bleaching events in recent years. Chemical sunscreens have been shown to slow or prevent recovery from bleaching events, disease, and other disturbances to coral reefs.

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In recent years Hawai‘i has made strides in attempting to reduce the volume of sunscreen chemicals flowing into the ocean. A statewide ban on the sale of sunscreens containing two specific chemicals went into effect earlier this year. Just today the Maui County Council was considering a ban on the sale of all chemical-based sunscreens.

Sedar hopes other beach locations will see dispensers in the future. In addition to DSP other partners in the Waialea project were mineral sunscreen maker Raw Elements and the Coral Reef Alliance.

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