(CNN) – Key West, FL, is the latest city to ban certain sunscreens with chemicals that could harm coral reefs.
The state of Hawaii passed a similar measure last year.
The Key West measure to ban the sale of sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate won’t go into effect until 2021, but it’s already ringing alarm bells in the medical community.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) is calling on Key West to reconsider.
“Our main interest is protecting patients from skin cancer,” said Dr. Terrence Cronin, a dermatologist.
Protecting the ocean and protecting our skin are two sides of a growing debate.
“In the areas where you’ve got a lot of these chemical sunscreens going in the water, those corals aren’t going to come back,” said John Fauth, associate professor of biology at the University of Central Florida.
UVA rays from the sun penetrate deeper layers of skin and are linked to melanoma. UVB rays damage outer layers and cause sunburn.
While some sunscreens only block one type of ray, the AAD says oxybenzone is among the few ingredients approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that’s able to block both.
But experts say the ingredient also harms ocean life.
“It’s not just coral. It is also toxic to fish. It’s toxic to algae. Oxybenzone is almost like an herbicide,” said Craig Downs, executive director of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory.
For those concerned about the environment, there is some middle ground.
“Using sunscreen is just part of a comprehensive sun protection plan,” Cronin said. “Sun-smart behavior is seeking out the shade, wearing sun protective clothing.”