Sunscreen ban preemption hits Governor’s desk

The bill came in response to Key West's ban on sunscreens containing certain chemicals.

Gov. Ron DeSantis will soon cast his decision on whether to block local bans on sunscreen sales.

After Key West banned the sale of certain sunblocks over fears some chemicals could degrade coral reefs, lawmakers filed legislation (SB 172) that would overrule that and future bans.

The city had qualms with the effects of component ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate on the largest coral reef on the continent. Stuart and Miami Beach have mulled similar bans.

Rep. Spencer Roach, the bill’s House sponsor, noted DeSantis’ veto on last year’s plastic straw preemption fight, with DeSantis doubting a “compelling state interest” for the straw ban. Legislation this year preempting local vacation rental regulations died after the Governor voiced his reluctance on such a law.

But with Sen. Rob Bradley, the Senate budget chief, as the Senate sponsor, the Governor is less likely to plot a dissenting course.

This Session, Bradley referenced his own troubles with skin cancer and noted that Florida is second in the nation for cases of melanoma. The group Aim at Melanoma verifies that data.

All but three Democrats broke from the majority in the 25-14 Senate vote while two Republicans joined Democrats for a 68-47 vote that fell mostly along party lines.

At the bills passage, Republicans, including the sponsor and Rep. Ralph Massullo, questioned the science behind the bans, saying the studies were full of holes and did not prove coral reef degradation from chemical sunscreens.

“If we don’t have evidence that is good, that is verified, we cannot allow these communities to ban sunscreens,” said Massullo, a dermatologist by trade. “We have plenty of empirical evidence that sunscreens are very, very important to our society, that they save lives. By banning them, we’ll be threatening lives.”

The Florida Chamber was among the supportive parties in committee. The Sierra Club and Surfrider Foundation, meanwhile, opposed the bill.

DeSantis has until June 30 to act on the bill, which would go into effect July 1.

Roach believes the interest will prove to be more compelling upon the Governor’s review.

“There is absolutely a compelling state interest in protecting the health and safety of our citizens in allowing them to choose to purchase, use and apply what three decades of research has told us is the best and most effective cancer prevention on the market,” he said.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


  • Joe DiNardo

    June 17, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    If you really want to protect your citizens from skin cancer Representative Roach, Senator Bradley and Governor DeSantis … stop them from using organic “chemical” sunscreens and teach them about sun avoidance, protective clothing, apply a mineral sunscreen to exposed areas and make beach umbrellas/cabanas available for all to use … THE SUN CAUSES CANCER.

    Unfortunately for all of us, no such data exists in the scientific literature that demonstrates sunscreens are the “most effective cancer prevention on the market” … that is simply an ALTERNATIVE FACT!

    The National Center for Health Statistics data clearly shows that from 1975 to 2016 (when sunscreens started to be used) 388,061 people died from skin cancers. Standardizing that data to the US population means that 24 deaths per million people occurred in 1975 which increased to 37 deaths per million people in 2016 … that is a 54% increase in skin cancer deaths. Likewise, if we want to look at just the incidence of melanoma, the American Cancer Society data demonstrates that in 1975 there were 61 melanomas per million people, which increased to 178 melanomas per million people in 2016 … that is a 192% increase in the rate of melanoma. What we have become good at is not protecting ourselves from the sun, but at treating skin cancer … the medical community needs to be commended for limiting a 192% increase in deadly melanomas to just a 55% increase in skin cancer deaths! AGAIN, thank you health care providers for all that your have done and continue to do to keep us alive.


      June 18, 2020 at 7:49 am

      Mr. DiNardo emphasizes a critical point in discussing sunscreen bans – there is no robust evidence that sunscreens using these UV filters prevent cancer and save lives.The reason for the ban includes protecting coral but there is a greater benefit to human health. The FDA Bulletin of FEB 2019 clearly states that there is insufficient evidence to list 12 of these petrochemical soluble UV filters as Generally Regarded As Safe or Effective (GRASE). In fact early studies suggested that sunscreen users had higher rates of skin cancer particularly melanoma. The basic science explains why. Typical brand name sunscreens using soluble UV filters watch-listed by the FDA and tabled for a total ban of all 12 by Hawaii, give incomplete UV protection with an extreme UVB protection bias, where up to 10 times more UVA than UVB reaches the skin. Asymmetric UVA exposure similar to a tanning bed, perhaps less acute and less intense but likely posing the same risks. Modern science confirms that UVA is the primary driver of skin cancer and sunscreens labelled as BROAD SPECTRUM in N. America have very low levels of UVA protection when measured properly, and may not actually prevent skin cancer.

      The grim skin cancer statistics also support this basic science as pointed out by Mr. DiNardo. Skin cancer is now the most common cancer in the USA and Canada and accounts for more than 50% of all human cancers i.e. skin cancer cases outnumber all other cancers combined. The incidence of BCC (Basal Cell Carcinoma) and SCC (Squamous cell carcinoma) increased by 145% and 263% respectively from 1976-1984 and 2000-2010. The rate of new melanoma cases among American adults has tripled from 7.9 per 100,000 people in 1975 to 25.2 per 100,000 in 2014. Melanoma is the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 25-30, the second leading cause of cancer death in women ages 30-35, and melanoma is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer age 15-29. From 1970 to 2009, the incidence of melanoma increased by 8-fold among young women and 4-fold among young men, and in the USA, one person dies of melanoma every 54 minutes. Data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015 reported that from 2005 to 2015 there was a 27.2% and 42.9% increase in the global death rate from melanoma and NMSC respectively. This concern over the limitations of UVB-BIASED sunscreens has endured for almost 3 decades – first Diffey in 1992, and more recently Laughlin et al in 2018. Others have published similar concerns. In 2007 Gorham et al warned that using common sunscreen formulations, which absorb UVB almost completely, but transmit large quantities of UVA, may contribute to risk of melanoma in populations at latitudes > 40◦. Autier from the International Agency for Research on Cancer( IARC), warned in 2009 about the implications of intentional sun exposure using sunscreens with low UVA attenuation ability for prolonged sun exposure, or ‘sunscreen abuse’ allowing outdoor behavior not otherwise possible, particularly for people with fair skin.

      So if there is no real benefit – risks take on more significance. All 12 of these soluble UV filters are known to be hormone disruptors, a definite concern as all enter the human body and pose risks too numerous to list here. The greatest risk is to the unborn and young or adolescent children. All of these legislators likely have children or grandchildren. Focus on their health in considering this issue. No prudent parent would knowingly accept using a sunscreen with dubious benefits that achieves blood levels and is bioavailable to every cell in a child’s body. These petrochemicals are the same class of chemical as the fuel and oil in your car and share many properties and effects as other hormone disruptors – DDT, phthalates, and BPA. A ban on these UV filters will actually have benefits to humans as well as the coral. Remember the FDA considers that the only GRASE UV filters are mineral filters- zinc oxide – very safe for humans – used by almost every mother as diaper cream and in medicine for a 100 years. Now available in transparent dispersions. Being chalky white on skin is no longer an excuse not to use zinc oxide – Venus Williams – a resident of Florida proudly uses a 25% zinc oxide sunscreen. Better for our children, our entire planet and yes! even the coral.

  • Denis DUDLEY MD.

    June 17, 2020 at 8:04 pm

    A ban on petrochemical aromatic UV filters does not prevent people from using sunscreen – it merely protects humans from bioavailable potentially harmful chemicals for which there is no real evidence that they actually prevent cancer. Banning bioavailable Low Molecular Weight (LMW) petrochemical UV filters to protect coral and the marine ecosystem must be examined in the context that there are more reasons to prohibit their use in humans. LMW filters < 500 Daltons (G/mol) will permeate human skin and become bioavailable to humans, including the fetus, facts established by studies over 20 years, and independently confirmed and acknowledged by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Recent studies confirm the widespread contamination of humans with soluble UV filters found in blood, urine, amniotic fluid, placenta, fetal and cord blood, semen, ovarian follicular fluid, and adipose tissue. The entire global water supply, terrestrial, aquatic and marine biota are all polluted with these petrochemical UV filters. Extensive recent literature confirms the same pattern and prevalence for adverse effects in humans and wildlife from organic UV filters, Inorganic mineral oxides and newer High Molecular Weight (HMW) filters like bemotrizinol and bisoctrizole – engineered as long chains to be larger than 500 Daltons will not. They avoid the bioavailability that becomes the first step in human toxicity through hormone disruption and DNA mutation. Of equal concern are the widespread effects on the environment – terrestrial, aquatic and marine. There appears to be a common pathway for toxicity to humans, wildlife, and the marine eco-system. First PERMEATION then HORMONE DISRUPTION, DNA mutation and genotoxicity.

    There may be fewer studies in marine biology but extensive human research data confirms the human risks of the UV filters on the FDA watch-list and to be banned in Hawaii after 2022. An ironic paradox exists from human use of sunscreens to prevent skin cancer in the face of possible toxicity. Six decades of literature and statistics show an unrelenting rise of 3-8% in global skin cancer since 1960 and a parallel global rise in mortality rates from skin cancer. Sunscreens using petrochemical filters pollute our bodies and the oceans and may actually be a factor in rising cancer rates. Of these, only avobenzone has any UVA1 filtering and all the others provide UVB and some UVA2 protection. Combinations of these filters give inadequate protection, filtering UVB to UVA with an extreme UVB-BIAS of up to 10 to 1 or more. UVB-BIASED sunscreens dominate the global sunscreen market. They prevent UVB effects like sunburn to varying degrees but cannot prevent skin cancer and photoaging, since modern science shows that the long wave UVA1 rays are the primary drivers of skin cancer and sun damage. With dubious benefits – adverse effects take on extra significance- there is enough evidence of pathophysiologic alterations in humans, animals and wildlife to invoke the Precautionary Principle as definitive research is not ethical or feasible. Despite 5 decades and hundreds of reports from all corners of the globe showing that the same effects occur in wildlife and in humans, there is still a chorus arguing “more research is needed”. This position is like revolving door or ‘rabbit hole’ in my opinion, and ignores the first precept in medicine “Do No Harm” and the dictates of the Precautionary Principle to err on the side of caution when human health is threatened by a chemical or drug. The Precautionary Principle asserts “that the burden of proof for potentially harmful actions by industry or government rests on the assurance of safety and that when there are threats of serious damage, scientific uncertainty must be resolved in favor of prevention”. This approach is in perfect harmony with the physician’s first rule – primum non nocere” (first do no harm), particularly when faced with serious irreversible consequences from soluble bioavailable UV filters to exposed individuals and their progeny. The Precautionary Principle recognizes that the absence of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing decisions, where there is even minimal risk of serious or irreversible harm. The alternative – use sunscreens with large molecular weight INSOLUBLE filters like inorganic zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. organic bemotrizinol, bisoctrizole, and drometrizole trisiloxane. They exceed the 500 Dalton threshold for permeation through human skin- no bioavailability underlying any risks for the adverse effects seen with SOLUBLE petrochemical UV filters. These insoluble filters include the most efficient UVA filters and provide better balanced UVA/UVB protection against skin cancer. More BENEFIT – virtually ZERO RISK. The Precautionary Principle applied – and a better Benefit Risk equation for humans, wildlife and the environment.

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