Publicado: Sol, Noviembre 04, 2018
Ciencia | Por Aurelio Ontiveros

Palau plans sunscreen ban to save corals

Palau plans sunscreen ban to save corals

Palau, an archipelago of more than 500 islands in the Pacific Ocean, has reportedly announced that starting 2020, it will be enforcing a ban on reef-toxic sunscreens that are jeopardizing the health of the nation's famed coral reefs.

Palau's ban on reef-toxic sunscreens follows in the footsteps of Hawaii, which in July became the first USA state to ban the sale or distribution of sunscreen containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. In Palau, any store selling one of the banned sunscreens after January 1 will be fined $1,000.

"This short but important bill has the potential to make a lasting impact on the environment here", President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr., wrote in a letter accompanying the legislation. "But as our reputation grows, and more and more people come to see our pristine paradise with their own eyes, we can not relinquish our responsibility for these islands".

Remengesau's spokesman, Olkeriil Kazuo, told NPR a big impetus for this legislation's passing was a 2017 report from the Coral Reef Research Foundation which found widespread sunscreen toxins in Jellyfish Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage site and highly popular tourist attraction.

Most sunscreens sold in the USA contain one of the 10 chemicals that are now banned in the country, but alternatives do exist.

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For a coral reef, a tiny amount of sunscreen-the equivalent of a drop of water in 6.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools-can be deadly.

"Any small effort to reduce oxybenzone pollution could mean that a coral reef survives a long, hot summer, or that a degraded area recovers", the study's researcher Craig Downs said in a news release.

Hawaii passed legislation similar to Palau's earlier this year that goes into effect in 2021. It also said products should not contain the ten ingredients listed above. Moreover, tourists who bring in their own bottle of sunscreen would have it confiscated.

As NPR has previously reported, "There are already thousands of sunscreen products that do not contain oyxbenzone or octinoxate, with more working their way onto the market".

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