Merkley, Rubio, Case, Giménez Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Help Consumers Make Informed Sunscreen Purchases, Protect Ocean Health

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley teamed up with U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Representatives Ed Case (D-HI-01) and Carlos Giménez (R-FL-26) today to introduce the Reef Safe Act of 2021—legislation that would help protect our oceans and marine ecosystems from harmful chemicals found in some types of sunscreen, by creating an FDA certification for “Reef Safe” and “Ocean Safe” sunscreens.

“Like many Oregonians, I have many great memories with my family at the Oregon Coast, walking up and down the shore, collecting seashells, and checking out the fascinating sea life in the tide pools,” said Merkley. “The last thing any of us want is to accidentally harm that sea life by wearing toxic chemicals in our sunscreen. This simple bill will help us choose the best products both for our skin protection and for sea life protection.”

“Florida’s coral reefs and coastal ecosystems are foundational to Florida’s economic, ecological, and cultural character, and protecting them is vital,” said Rubio. “Establishing science-based definitions for “reef safe” and “ocean safe” will protect consumers from false or misleading product claims, and allow Americans to make informed decisions to help preserve critical marine habitats.”

“Hawai‘i has been a national leader in preserving our precious coral reefs, including by enacting the first state-wide ban on certain chemicals harmful to those reefs,” said Case. “This legislation would help all consumers across the country make informed choices regarding their sunscreen use and assist state and local jurisdictions like Hawai‘i enforce their regulations. We all have a role to play as stewards of our oceans and marine resources for future generations, and this bill simply makes it easier for us to meet our obligation to our oceans and earth.”  

“Florida’s aquatic ecosystems are crucial to the well-being of our state. They serve an incredibly important part of our local economy in Florida’s 26th congressional district and play a vital role in the identity of South Florida’s communities,” said Giménez. “That is why I am teaming up with my colleagues to ensure that any and all preservation measures, including warning labels on consumer products that may have an impact on our aquatic ecosystems, are accurate and science-based.”

The legislation would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to develop a criteria that must be used in order for sunscreen to be labelled “Reef Safe” and “Ocean Safe.” The criteria would be required to take into consideration the impacts on species including dish, fish larvae, sea urchins, coral, crustaceans, sea grasses, and macroalgea, each of which play a vital role in the health of maritime ecosystems. Additionally, the FDA would be required to reevaluate labelling criteria every 10 years, to ensure continued protection of the environment.

Full text of the legislation is available here.