A bill that would prevent local governments from banning certain sunscreens cleared its final panel Thursday en route to the House floor.
That legislation (HB 113), filed by Rep. Spencer Roach, overrides ordinances passed by counties and cities on over-the-counter drugs and cosmetics.
Key West’s decision last year to prevent the sale of sunscreens containing certain chemicals — which some say destroys coral reefs — prompted both bill. The city remains the only one in the Sunshine State with such a ban, but Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands have similar bans.
“What we’re talking about here is not local control. It’s cancer,” Roach said. “I would ask you not to think of this as a preemption bill, but as a cancer-prevention bill.”
The House Health and Human Services Committee passed the measure with a 10-6 party-line, clearing it for a chamber-wide vote.
West Park Democratic Rep. Shevrin Jones argued local governments should have the freedom to phase in chemical bans. And the committee’s ranking Democrat, Miami Rep. Nicholas Duran, called it a “hypersensitive local issue” for the city’s economy.
“We have a municipality that has an intense interest in ensuring that its reef maintains its integrity and continues to exist,” he said.
Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club of Florida, think sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate contribute to the bleaching of coral reefs. But the bill’s proponents say that science is insufficient and bans unnecessarily challenge businesses as most sunscreens contain the chemicals.
Roach pointed to the Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) analysis of 18 studies looking at those chemicals as proof that there’s a lack of science proving sunscreen with oxybenzone and octinoxate cause coral reef damage.
The peer-reviewed studies compiled by OPPAGA found that oxybenzone and octinoxate in sunscreens have negative effects on corals and marine life when exposed to “concentration levels generally not observed in nature.” But the sponsors say the sunscreens only contain a maximum concentration level of 7.5%.
Dermatologists generally say sunscreens with these chemicals are safe to use.
Because the Senate cleared Sen. Rob Bradley‘s version of the proposal (SB 172) on Wednesday, the House could approve that bill and send it to Gov. Ron DeSantis. The House’s next floor session is scheduled for Wednesday.
Data compiled in 2016 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Florida ranks second in the number of new melanoma cases. But the state ranks 27th by rate of new melanoma cases with a rate just above the national average.
Bradley said local governments shouldn’t be banning sunscreen and thereby discouraging people from protecting their skin from cancer. Bradley said he has had spots of skin cancer removed from his face.
“Unfortunately, with all of the wonderful things that come with our beaches and our sunshine, we also rank second in the nation for the highest rate of new melanoma cases,” Bradley said during a November committee meeting.
Democratic Sens. Lauren Book, Bill Montford and Audrey Gibson, the Senate Minority Leader, joined Republicans on the 25-14 vote Wednesday to approve that chamber’s version.