Palau to Ban Sunscreen to Try to Save its Coral Reefs
The Pacific nation of Palau will soon ban many types of sunscreen in an effort to protect its coral reefs.
President Tommy Remengesau Jr. signed legislation recently that bans "reef-toxic" sunscreen beginning in 2020. The law defines reef-toxic sunscreen as containing any one of 10 chemicals, including oxybenzone. Other chemicals may also be banned.
Officials will take banned sunscreens from visitors who carry them into the country. Businesses that sell the banned products will be fined up to $1,000.
In a statement, Remengesau said that the punishments find the right balance between "educating tourists and scaring them away."
The law also requires tour operators to start providing customers with reusable cups, drinking straws and food containers.
The president said the legislation was introduced based on information from a 2017 report. The report found that sunscreen products were widespread in Palau's famous Jellyfish Lake. The lake was closed for more than a year because of a decrease in jellyfish numbers. It was recently reopened.
The president also noted that plastic waste, chemical pollution, and climate change all threaten the country's environmental health.
In July, the American state of Hawaii banned the sale of sunscreen containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate beginning in 2021. However, tourists will still be able to bring the banned sunscreen with them into the state. They may also buy the sunscreen in Hawaii if they have a doctor's prescription.
Scientists have found that some chemicals in sunscreen can be toxic to coral reefs. The reefs are an important part of the ocean environment and popular with tourists. But some critics say there are not enough independent scientific studies on the issue. Others worry that people will suffer from too much sun contact if they stop using the products.
Some manufacturers have already started selling "reef-friendly" sunscreen.
Palau is located east of the Philippines and north of Indonesia. The nation is home to 21,000 people. Its economy depends on tourism and fishing. Palau has an agreement with the United States that provides economic assistance, defense of the territory and other benefits.
I'm Jonathan Evans.