HONOLULU, Hawai‘i – Hawaii’s coral reefs are in danger of disappearing due to something other than climate change. According to scientific monitoring, the reefs are dying from the toxic effects of local pollution.

Researcher Dr. Craig Downs, Executive Director of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory and a member of the International Program for the State of the Ocean (IPSO) scientific working group on Personnel Care Product (PCP) pollution, provided details of his latest findings on the stressors putting Hawaii’s coral reefs at risk of extinction at a recent public meeting at the State Capitol.

Recent data shows coastal reef sites near populated areas across the state are showing high death rates and diminished redevelopment rates. Studies show nitrogen waste from landscaping and sewage are attributed to coral bleaching, along with water temperature. However, according to Dr. Downs, chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, listed as “endocrine disruptors” which impact the reproductive and developmental health from corals to humans are adding to the diminishing health of Hawai‘i’s coral reefs. Dr. Downs said this can be easily solved by substituting these chemicals with less harmful ingredients in personal care products.

Several bills were introduced this past Legislative Session to mitigate the impact of pollution from oxybenzone. Although they did not pass, Sen. Will Espero (Dist. 19 - ‘Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, ‘Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, portion of ‘Ewa Villages) said he hopes to continue work on legislation to remove the risk of oxybenzone pollution “not only for the protection and preservation of our oceans, but also for our state’s economy and tourism industry.”

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