Senate committee advances legislation preempting local bans on sunscreen

Sen. Bradley called evidence leading to Key West's sunscreen ban junk science.

Legislation preempting local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens passed a state Senate committee Wednesday despite opposition from some Democrats.

State Sen. Rob Bradley’s bill (SB 172) gives the state the ultimate authority to regulate over-the-counter drugs and cosmetics, including sunscreen. It was prompted by the City of Key West’s decision to ban sunscreen containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. Environmental groups believe they contribute to the bleaching of coral reefs. Bradley calls it “junk science.”

Holly Parker Curry, Florida regional manager for the Surfrider Foundation, said coral reefs are valuable not only to the economy but also to the Keys and Key West. She said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates the asset value of the coral reefs at $8.5 billion and they support about 70,000 full- and part-time jobs.

“They’re also essential ecologically and for those of us who recreate and value scuba diving, snorkeling and just appreciating wildlife,” she said. 

Parker Curry said oxybenzone and octinoxate are in 70% of sunscreens. Bradley argues cities shouldn’t be so severely limiting the marketplace so consumers can’t purchase effective products.

“Local governments shouldn’t be picking and choosing which types of sunscreens are available based on junk science,” he said.

Bradley, the Fleming Island Republican who chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, said the state is taking action to protect coral reefs off its coast. Included in his legislation appropriating $625 million for Everglades restoration projects is $10 million for coral reefs. But he said they’re not going to go down rabbit holes because a “cause du jour comes along that makes people feel good.” 

Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a state preemption bill last year that prevented local governments from banning plastic straws. But Bradley said he’s confident DeSantis will agree with him that skin cancer is a real danger and the purpose of the bill is to encourage Floridians to use sunscreen.

Four Senate Democrats, Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens, Gary Farmer of Fort Lauderdale, José Javier Rodriguez of Miami-Dade and Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale, voted no. 

The House version of the bill (HB 113) cleared its first committee stop, but was removed from the agenda for its second stop.

Sarah Mueller

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to [email protected].


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