Florida Sunscreen Preemption Heads To Senate Floor

Jan 16, 2020

The Key West City Commission voted to ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone or octinoxate because of their potential to harm coral reefs.
Credit kosmos111 / Adobe Stock

A measure preventing local bans on sunscreen in Florida is back after it failed last year. It would stop a Key West ban on certain sunscreens from going into effect.

Key West commissioners worry something in sunscreen is causing damage to the environment. That’s why they banned sunscreen that contains two chemicals from being sold without a prescription.

“There are emerging studies that show not only impacts to coral reefs but also to human health, that it may essentially be an endocrine disruptor and carcinogenic," said Holly Parker-Curry, policy manager for the Surfrider Foundation, a group whose goal is to protect the ocean and beaches.

The group says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved other options that will protect coral reefs and keep people from getting sunburns.

"In their preliminary rule, they came out with two sunscreens that they recommended off the bat as generally safe and effective, and those are mineral sunscreens," Parker-Curry told the Senate Rules Committee.

The FDA is currently doing a study to see if sunscreen ingredients are safe. So far, it has found two chemicals that it calls safe. It’s continuing to study 12 others, two of which are involved in Key West’s ban. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park), doesn’t think that’s enough to change any laws.

"There is a lack of science on that issue. What science is clear and indisputable about is the case of using sunscreen to protect against skin cancer," explained Bradley.

He says the threat skin cancer causes in Florida is big enough to have all sunscreen options available.

Those of us who grew up in Florida understand how dangerous it is, and that's why sunscreen was developed to fight against skin cancer and melanoma. ~Sen. Ron Bradley

"Those of us who grew up in Florida understand how dangerous it is, and that’s why sunscreen was developed to fight against skin cancer and melanoma, which is a very dangerous condition," said Bradley.

The American Academy of Dermatology says one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. In the Sunshine State, the odds appear higher.

“Florida ranks second in the nation for the highest rate of new melanoma cases, and sunscreen is the first line of defense against skin cancer," said Bradley.

In fact, Bradley recently had a scare with skin cancer himself. "I just recently had to have a small procedure on my face because some pre-cancer developed," he said.

Parker-Curry with the Surfriders wants the state government to follow the example of other governments that are surrounded by bodies of water.

“The state of Hawaii has banned the sale of cosmetics containing these two products: the U.S. Virgin Islands and now Palou. Palou is the first country, and their ban took effect on January 1," said Parker-Curry.

Deborah Foote representing the Sierra Club says preempting local government from banning the chemicals is wrong. “81% of voters agree that city and county officials should generally be able to pass local laws to protect public health, the environment, and quality jobs when communities believe that a statewide law isn’t enough," said Foote.

“There are concerns we should not be preempting local government unnecessarily or go overboard in that effort," explained Bradley. "But this is a case where I think it’s appropriate for it to be a uniform policy throughout the state of Florida."

The bill is now headed to the full Senate.