Palau, the western Pacific Ocean country, has become the first country in the world to ban various types of sunscreen to protect coral reefs. The country has announced this step as strict environmental measures. This ban has been imposed on ‘reef toxic' or coral toxic sunscreens.
Palau is famous for its marine life and renowned for its best diving destinations. As per the government orders, any reef-toxic sold or imported in Palau will be confiscated and fines will be imposed on the owner.
Sunscreen that includes common ingredients, including oxybenzone, is not allowed to be worn or sold in the country.
Palau's President Tommy Remengesau said: "We have to live and respect the environment because the environment is the nest of life."
The island nation markets itself as a "pristine paradise" for divers.
A lagoon in Palau's Rock Islands is a Unesco World Heritage site. The country has a population of around 20,000 dotted across hundreds of islands.
The ban which was announced in 2018 prohibits sun cream containing any of 10 ingredients. The list includes oxybenzone and octinoxate, which absorb ultraviolet light.
The International Coral Reef Foundation said the banned chemicals were "known environmental pollutants - most of them are... incredibly toxic to juvenile stages of many wildlife species".
Mr. Remengesau told the AFP news agency: "When science tells us that a practice is damaging to coral reefs, to fish populations, or to the ocean itself, our people take note and our visitors do too.
"Toxic sunscreen chemicals have been found throughout Palau's critical habitats, and in the tissues of our most famous creatures.
"We don't mind being the first nation to ban these chemicals, and we will do our part to spread the word."
The number of sun creams containing the harmful chemicals is declining. In 2018, experts said it was found in about half of creams and lotions.
When the US state of Hawaii announced a similar ban - which comes into effect in 2021 - major brands were quick to say their products were "reef bill compliant".
Other places to announce bans include the US Virgin Islands - where the law takes effect in March - and the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire.
- According to the orders, any tourist entering a country with banned sunscreen will have to face fines up to USD $1,000.
- Scientists have found that chemicals contained in sunscreen, which enters the ocean through different means, causes great harm to coral reefs.
- According to the President of Palau, Tommy Esang Remengesau, Jr. this decision has taken on the basis of a report published in 2017 that informed sunscreen products have harmful chemicals for coral reefs.
Sunscreen and Coral Reefs
• As per the report published by The Ocean Foundation, about 14,000 tons of sunscreen is absorbed into the oceans every year.
• According to researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia, low concentrations of sunscreen in water can also reduce the growth of young coral.
• Various studies have shown that chemicals in sunscreen can harm coral reefs and also inhibit fish reproduction by interfering with their hormonal system.
• A 2015 study found that the oxybenzone present in sunscreen inhibits coral growth. It was also found toxic to algae living within the coral reefs.
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