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Miami Beach Commissioners Vote Not To Ban Sunscreen Ingredients Experts Say Harm Coral Reefs

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Miami Beach commissioners voted on Wednesday not to prohibit the sale of sunscreens containing two ingredients experts believe harm coral reefs.

Oxybenzone and octinoxate are the ingredients in question and they are present in over-the-counter sunscreens approved by FDA.

Dave Doebler, the chair of the sustainability committee for the city of Miami Beach spoke at the meeting about the harms the chemicals have on the city's coral reef.

Commissioner Michael Gongora proposed the ban and emphasized it does not eliminate sunscreen.

Skin care experts say a partial ban may not be the best way.

"This is a public health issue because when you eliminate 90% of your favorite products you're left with things people won't use," said Dr. Jackie Dosal, a dermatologist in Coral Gables. "In light of this and the trend of people talking about toxic sunscreen, consumers may just say sunscreen is bad and not use at all."

Others against the ban say there just isn't enough scientific research yet.

"It needs to be studied", said Dr. Martin Zaiac with Mount Sinai Medical Center. "We want to protect our reefs. We want to protect our fish. We want to protect our people."

Ultimately, that's why the ban didn't pass, with only two commissioners, including Góngora voting yes.

"If we can get more precision and clarity on science," said Mayor Dan Gelber," the commission would clearly vote on behalf of the reefs."

Gongora said he was disappointed.

"It seemed like a no brainer," said Gongora, adding that he hoped with more facts and research, the item will be brought back to the table.

Last month, the Key West City Commission passed a ban on sunscreens containing these two chemicals.

The Key West city commission voted 6-1 to pass an ordinance banning the sale or distribution of any sunscreen that contains the chemicals.

Key West and the Florida Keys island chain are paralleled by the continental United States' only living coral barrier reef, lying within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Various studies indicate that oxybenzone and octinoxate can increase coral bleaching, cause mortality in developing coral, and cause genetic damage to corals and other marine organisms.

Key West Mayor Teri Johnston said, "To me, it boils right down to the fact that there are thousands of sunscreens out there and we have one reef, and we have an opportunity to do one small thing to protect that," said Key West Mayor Teri Johnston. "I believe it's our obligation."

The ordinance will go into effect Jan. 1, 2021, and will be enforced through warnings and civil citations.

Exceptions are to be made for medically licensed prescriptions.

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