Palm trees, sandy beaches, crystal clear waters flowing over magnificent coral reefs teeming with marine life. Sounds like everything desirable in an island paradise. To insure this reality, island destinations are taking dramatic steps to protect their coral reefs and marine ecosystems–that includes banning many popular brands of sunscreen.
To Protect its Coral Reefs Palau Bans Sunscreens
The republic of Palau can boast some of the world’s most pristine coral reefs, so spectacular that they were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Realizing its responsibility to protect this natural heritage and also appreciating the importance of tourism to the nation’s economy, Palau has become the first country to ban sunscreens containing certain harmful ingredients.
Oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene and parabens are chemicals known to be environmental pollutants. Most of them are endocrine disruptors or are incredibly toxic to juvenile stages of many wildlife species, including corals, fish, macroalgae and even people.
Sunscreen Pollution can reduce the resiliency of ecosystems to climate change factors and, by themselves, prevent the recovery of degrading wildlife and habitats. These chemicals are part of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory’s HEL LIST of chemicals that pose an environmental threat.
Visitors to Become Part of the Solution
Palau’s new law is part of the Palau Responsible Tourism Policy Framework which requires that all visitors to Palau “become part of the solution to the environmental challenges in our pristine paradise.” The new ban will begin as of January 1, 2020.
Over a dozen scientific papers have demonstrated that OXYBENZONE is highly toxic to marine life, especially coral. Oxybenzone can cause corals to become more susceptible to coral bleaching, it will damage the DNA of coral, and it will deform and kill juvenile coral.
Oxybenzone is toxic to shrimp, sea urchins, and bivalves (e.g., scallops, mussels), and is especially toxic to marine algae.
Sunscreen Pollution is a symptom of unsustainable tourism. Many places in the world that are popular with tourism are seeing rapid destruction of their wildlife and environment. Maya Beach in Thailand and Boracay Bay in the Philippines have been closed to tourism in order to protect and restore their vital coral reef resources.
Palau Joins with Hawaii and Bonaire in Banning Sunscreen
To address this threat of Sunscreen Pollution, the State of Hawaii passed into law a ban on sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. The Dutch municipality of Bonaire has similar legislation pending.
The Republic of Palau has enacted an innovative and bold measure banning a number of chemicals that pose a threat to its natural resources.
By preserving the continuity of their pristine wilderness by managing for sustainable tourism, Palau is setting the standard for protecting one of the world’s greatest natural treasures.
See our lists of Reef Friendly sunscreens in these Blue Ocean articles:
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