KIHEI – Four mineral sunblock dispensers are up on this Valentine’s Day on south Maui shores, encouraging all to “love the ocean the right way.” Two are at the ‘Āhihi-Kīna‘u Natural Area Reserve and a pair are to be installed at Mākena State Park. Thousands of people enter the ocean at these locations every day.
The dispensers hold non-nano, zinc, mineral sunscreen. Products with these active ingredients are safe for people and marine life because those elements already exist in sea water. Dermatologists say mineral-based products are the most effective protection for people, as they block out both UVB and UVA rays from the sun.
The Maui installations were inspired by a sunblock dispenser at Waialea Bay at Hāpuna State Recreation Area on Hawai‘i Island. Kelli Lundgren, board member of the Robert F. Orr Charitable Foundation, decided Maui needed dispensers. “As a volunteer at ‘Āhihi-Kīna‘u I’ve communicated with hundreds of visitors about the effectiveness and protection of mineral sunscreens. As people understand the mineral alternative and discover that sprays and bottles labeled “reef safe” actually can be harmful, they wanted an alternative.”
The Robert F. Orr Charitable Foundation through the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council, and with support from the State of Hawai‘i and County of Maui, helped with the placement of dispensers at the Maui beaches. “I hope this will be the start of additional protection for Maui’s corals, fishes, and other abundant, beautiful, and essential sea life,” Lundgren added.
“Once people try mineral sunscreens, they see how easy they are to use,” said Mike Fogarty, Executive Director at Maui Nui Marine Resource Council. “We hope these dispensers give people an introduction to a better way of protecting themselves and marine life. Using mineral-based sunscreens also help protect the fish that many in our community rely on for food.”
Beginning on October 1, Maui County will be the first place in the country to ban the sale and use of sunscreen products with petrochemicals as active ingredients. Many of those products are labeled as “reef safe” with no scientific backing to the claims. The historic ordinance was passed unanimously by the Maui County Council and was signed into law by Mayor Michael Victorino last December.
It is intended to protect reefs and ocean food sources from continuous, daily chemical contamination. A 2018 state-wide law only banned the sale of two chemicals but allowed the continued sale of many other chemical ingredients.The Maui ordinance is stronger because it allows only the sale of mineral products. It prohibits the sale or use of anychemical compounds currently in use as well as any new compounds created in the future.
Council member Kelly King introduced the bill and commented, “Non-mineral sunscreens are an aggressive pollutant. Our coral reefs are our first defense against climate change and sea level rise. This includes impacts such as erosion, runoff from storms and development, and seepage from wastewater injection wells. Our ordinance is one importantstep toward protecting the health and resilience of our reefs and marine life by removing a significant ecological stressor. Making a better choice in sun protection is one thing we can all do immediately. What better day thanValentine’s to make a change and show your love for the kai?”
Peter Landon, of the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, manages ‘Āhihi-Kīna‘u Natural Area Reserve. Landon said, “Thanks for the generous donations and everyone’s work on this issue. The installation of these dispensers is a welcome addition to our outreach efforts, giving us a way to help visitors who were unaware of the chemicalsunscreen pollutants, or thought they bought something ‘reef safe’. We appreciate it when people hear our messageand want to do the right thing.”
Raw Elements USA supplied the dispensers and product. Chis Wagaman of the company remarked, “We’re honored and proud to be a part of this project with great people participating in positive change for Maui. It is incredible to see the steps taken to educate and provide an incredible experience for everyone who goes into the ocean.”