In an exciting step towards protecting the oceans, Palau, an archipelago in the Pacific, will become the first country to ban the use of sunscreens that are harmful to coral reefs and marine creatures.
the ban will be in full force by 2020 after being signed into law by the Palau government. The ban specifically will target sunscreens that are contain chemicals that are toxic to reefs. Under the law, if a sunscreen has one of the 10 chemicals that are banned, the sunscreen will not be allowed.
If anyone in the archipelago is found to be selling or importing the banned sunscreens, they will be immediately charged with a $1,000 fine. If tourist try and bring a sunscreen that contains any of the chemicals into the country, they will have it taken away form them.
Palau will become the first nation create a ban after issues they have encountered at famous diving sites. Palau us known for their diverse marine life and coral reefs and can see multiple boats converge on the same spot at the same time multiple times in a day. When the divers jump into the water, it results in gallons of sunscreen going into the ocean and creating a cloud of the toxic chemicals.
The state of Hawaii was actually the first to announce a ban but that will not take place till 2021, after Palau’s ban that starts on January 1st, 2020.
The most exciting part of nations and states starting to recognize and banning the negative impact of these sunscreens is that it is forcing major manufacturers to start creating and selling “reef friendly” sunscreen. Almost all current sunscreens contain the chemical oxybenxzone which is one of the biggest concerns to the health of reef systems.
“Oxybenxzone is probably the baddest actor out of the 10 chemicals that have been banned,” said Dr Craig Downs, an expert on the impacts of sunscreens on marine life, told BBC News. “It causes corals to bleach at lower temperatures, and it reduces their resilience to climate change.”
Palau, found north of Indonesia, is home to just 21,000 people but has a booming tourism and fishing industry. They are keen to avoid the fate of other countries, which have had to close beaches and other tourist destinations due to tourism.
While the move to banning dangerous sunscreens is a great step forward, climate change is a much bigger overall concern to the health and protection of reefs and the oceans worldwide but anything does help.