Governor Albert Bryan Jr. made history with the signing of Act 8185, banning the importation, sale and distribution in the US Virgin Islands of sunscreen containing the ‘toxic 3 Os’: oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene. Effective April 1st, 2020, according to Act 8185: ‘All persons, or entities that sell, distribute, or that are otherwise in possession of products containing oxybenzone, octocrylene, or octinoxate must dispose of them pursuant to the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority hazardous waste collection system process not later than March 30, 2020.’
St. Croix is a premier location for diving and snorkeling due to the abundance of sea life offered by our beautiful coral reefs and warm Caribbean waters. Unfortunately, since the 1980s the population of coral throughout the Caribbean have declined from stressors including: diseases, hurricanes, lionfish predation, over-fishing, bleaching, algae overgrowth, as well as direct and indirect human impacts. As the population of the coral declines, so does the eco-system they support. Centerline Car Rentals did it’s part to raise awareness and advocate the protection of our reefs even before Act 8185 was passed by promoting ‘Reef Safe’ sunscreen to Centerline’s customers.
Manuel Gutierrez, founder of Centerline Car Rentals, was raised here on St. Croix. While Manuel’s involvement in the island’s community is wide-reaching, he is very passionate about the ocean and related environmental issues. So, when he discovered that very small quantities of oxybenzone used in most sunblock formulations is toxic to our sea life, he and his staff went in search of a way to get the message out (because not wearing sunblock on St. Croix is not an option!). According to Manuel: ‘We wanted to get the message across in a manner that might stick, without preaching to our customers.’ The answer turned out to be ‘Reef Safe’, a non-toxic, biodegradable sunscreen manufactured by Tropical Seas. ‘Reef Safe’ offers the broad spectrum sun protection and 80 minutes of water/sweat resistance most sunscreens do, but goes far beyond just meeting regulatory standards by setting their own high-reaching environmental standards.
According to the Tropical Seas website: ‘Once our product has passed The Food & Drug Administration’s standards, we then submit our formulas to an independent ecology laboratory for further testing. By submitting our formulas for ecology testing, we learn not only their degree of biodegradability, but also their toxicity to sea life. The results, which are available for viewing on our website, prove that our products biodegrade in oceans, lakes and rivers and are non-toxic to sea life as well.’ Going even further, Tropical Seas produces ‘Reef Safe’ using renewable and sustainable resources, and they are a NO animal testing and NO animal by-products manufacturing facility.
Kristen Ellingson from Centerline’s office had contacted Mr. Dan Knorr, President of Tropical Seas and found the Tropical Seas’ philosophy to be in line with what Centerline was trying to accomplish. Further, Tropical Seas has educational material that does a good job of conveying the message to Centerline’s customers in a fun, yet effective manner. Mr. Knorr was very supportive from the start and gave Centerline a discounted rate on the samples it purchased along with the cards to convey the message. So, at the time of this blog, each customer of Centerline Car Rentals got a free sample bottle of ‘Reef Safe’ sunscreen along with a fact card that explained to customers how to minimize the human impact on coral reefs by using a product such as ‘Reef Safe’ sunblock. We know Manuel finds ‘Reef Safe’ to be worth promoting for its environmental merit alone because Centerline doesn’t even sell the sunscreen! Manuel simply gets the word out about how sunblock and other products containing oxybenzone harm our reefs, and you can support this cause by using oxybenzone-free products or doing your own research of what products are safe. If you would like to purchase ‘Reef Safe’ sunscreen here on St. Croix, it can be found at Caribbean Sea Adventures and Dive Experience in Christiansted, or at Nep2une Scuba Diving in Frederiksted.
Thanks Manuel, and Centerline Car Rentals, for introducing us to ‘Reef Safe’ sunscreen! For more information and tips on how you can be reef responsible, please check out our blog.
– Jennie Ogden, Editor