However, critics say there is not enough evidence to support the claim that the chemicals are bad for coral reefs.
Hawaii is now the first state in the nation to ban the sale of sunscreens with chemicals that could be harmful to the environment. The legislation, which state lawmakers passed in May, prohibits the sale and distribution of nonprescribed sunscreens that contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, which can be lethal for coral larvae.
SB 2471 states: "Oxybenzone and octinoxate cause mortality in developing coral; increase coral bleaching that indicates extreme stress, even at temperatures below 87.8 degrees Fahrenheit; and cause genetic damage to coral and other marine organisms".
"This is just one small step toward protecting and restoring the resiliency of Hawaii's reefs", Ige said at a signing ceremony for the bill, which takes effect in 2021.
In the meantime, the state will continue other conservation efforts such as fighting land runoff, pollution, and invasive species. Merchants carrying sunscreens will have until January of 2021 to cease the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate.
".it is contrary to the many concerns expressed by Hawaii's medical doctors, dermatologists, and public health experts", it added.
Environmental organizations argue that certain sunscreens - which research has shown can wash off from skin into the water while swimming or bathing - can be toxic to the coral reefs.
A 2015 paper asserts that oxybenzone, which provides UV coverage, contributes to the deformation of coral cells.
Octinoxate is also found in streams, rivers and oceans and, albeit controversial, is said to have negative effects on the thyroid gland and the brain. In addition, this law does not include products marketed or intended for use as a cosmetic, not does it include sunscreens prescribed by licensed healthcare providers.
Sen. Mike Gabbard, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Environment, and the man responsible for introducing the legislation, hailed it as the gold standard for the world to follow.