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Key West Approves Ban On Sale Of Sunscreens Believed To Harm Coral

Supporters of a ban on sale of sunscreen with two ingredients hold signs in front of Key West City Hall in 2019.
Nancy Klingener
Chris Green, left, and Reef Relief Executive Director Mill McCleary were among those supporting Key West's ban on the sale of some sunscreens, approved Tuesday night.

Key West has become the first place in the mainland U.S. to ban the sale of sunscreens containing two chemicals that have been found in some studies to harm corals.

"There are thousands and thousands of various alternative sunscreens that can be used. But we only have one reef," said Commissioner Jimmy Weekley, one of the sponsors of the ordinance.

It won final approval by a 6-1 vote Tuesday night.

Dozens of locals spoke in support of the ban, which will apply to sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. They said people concerned about sun exposure can use mineral sunscreens, or wear protective clothing.

Carlos Gutierrez from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association argued that won't fly in Key West.

"I applaud folks that are willing to cover up," he said. "But, you know, folks that are coming to Key West as tourists? I challenge you to get them to come all the way down to Key West to put on more clothing."

The measure was modeled by a similar ban approved in the state of Hawaii last year and is set to take effect at the same time, in January 2021.