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Napili Kai Beach Resort educates guests on reef-friendly sunscreen

By Staff | Nov 30, 2017


NAPILI – About three years ago, as a member of the Napili Bay and Beach Foundation, Napili Kai Beach Resort first became aware of the harmful effects of sunscreens containing chemicals such as Oxybenzone and Octinoxate on the ocean’s reef ecosystem, said Gregg Nelson, the resort’s president, CEO and general manager.

Nelson added that more research led Napili Kai to the conclusion that it needed to take action by educating guests on how they could help preserve the reefs of Napili Bay as well as other locations throughout the island.

Napili Bay and Beach Foundation is a grassroots organization consisting of concerned citizens dedicated to the protection of Napili Bay.

Partnering with both county and state entities, the foundation has been very successful in recent years improving the water quality of the bay and educating visitors on the importance of Hawaii’s reefs.

Nelson explained, “Though Napili Kai typically works within the foundation on beach and bay initiatives, this particular issue of harmful sunscreens was urgent, and we could do our part by addressing it immediately with our own Napili Kai guests.”

The resort began with small steps. Lorene Akiona, the resort’s recreation manager, occasionally made mention of these harmful sunscreen chemicals during her daily presentations on different aspects of Hawaiiana.

She soon found that her sunscreen presentations were attracting a great deal of interest and decided to incorporate the topic into all of her presentations.

“After all, it’s all related – without protection of the reefs and coral, we lose precious marine life; and without marine life, we lose part of the Hawaiian culture,” Nelson noted.

While the presentations on the harmful effects of some sunscreens were very successful, the resort was reaching only a small percentage of its guests.

The question on how to reach all guests was answered when additional research led to an arrangement with Raw Elements to supply all arriving guests with a sample packet of sunscreen lotion containing none of the chemicals suspected of being harmful to the reef systems.

“We realize the harmful effects of sunscreen are not the only cause of declining health in our ocean’s reefs, but even this small effort towards preservation is a contribution towards a positive direction,” Nelson explained.

“We all have been conditioned to read the label on food packages for ingredients. Take the time to do the same thing on your sunscreen container. What’s in your sunscreen?”

New research, including a report published last year in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, is probing the effects of certain sunscreens on coral reefs.

Conducted by a team of international scientists, “Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands” found that Oxybenzone, carried into the ocean by bathers, damages coral and increases the rate of coral bleaching.

To protect reefs, the U.S. National Park Service in Hawaii encourages ocean users to put on sunscreen made with Titanium Oxide or Zinc Oxide – which are reef-friendly – and wear clothing and hats to protect your skin from the sun.