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Palau Becomes First Nation To Ban Reef-Toxic Sunscreen

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When temperatures get too high, algae on corals leave and cause it to die due to bleaching. Because of reef-toxic chemicals, bleaching can occur even in lower temperatures.   ( Marcelo Kato | Pixabay )

Palau is the first country to ban types of sunscreen that can harm coral reefs. Anyone found distributing the sunscreen after the ban takes effect may be subjected to a fine.

Reef-Toxic Chemicals

Legislative findings in Palau showed significant sunscreen chemical contamination of the country’s aquatic environments, including the tourist spot Jellyfish Lake. Such chemicals from sunscreen can cause serious harm to both the coral reefs as well as aquatic creatures living in the area.

Specifically, chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate can cause coral bleaching, reduce coral resiliency, prevent the growth of new corals, and even cause genetic damage to both corals and marine animals.

As such, the government of Palau has signed a reef-toxic sunscreen ban into law, making the archipelago the first country to enforce a ban on certain types of sunscreen with chemicals such as oxybenzone, methyl paraben, ethyl paraben, and other reef-toxic chemicals.

Palau’s Sunscreen Ban

The Responsible Tourism Education Act of 2018, which was signed into law last Oct. 25 and is set to take effect in 2020, states that anyone who is found selling or distributing the banned products will have the products confiscated and be subjected to not more than $1,000 in civil penalties per violation. Furthermore, anyone entering Palau with the banned sunscreen will have the items confiscated.

The bill also requires businesses to educate tourists on the environment protection policies of the country, and encourages them to provide more environmentally friendly options for their customers.

“Education is an essential tool in keeping our environment safe, and I thank the OEK for once again going above and beyond in ensuring that our pristine paradise is prioritized above all else,” said Palau President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK) is the name of Palau’s National Congress.

Officials of the state of Hawaii also signed a bill banning reef-harming sunscreen chemicals earlier this year, making it the first state to ban such chemicals. The Hawaii sunscreen chemicals ban is set to take effect starting Jan. 1, 2021.

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