Sunscreen is an important part of any summer vacation or trip to the beach. Protecting our skin from the sun’s harmful rays is important. But new research has been pointing to oxybenzone, a chemical commonly found in sunscreen, as a source of damage to fragile coral reef ecosystems. One study found that just one drop of sunscreen could damage coral reef systems. Annually, 14,000 tons of sunscreens wind up washing into the ocean.
More and more countries are looking at banning sunscreens that contain oxybenzone. Earlier this year, Hawaii lawmakers moved to ban these sunscreens, and now, the Pacific nation of Palau may be following suit.
On October 25th, Palau president Tommy Remengesau Jr. signed into law the Responsible Tourism Education Act of 2018 that would see oxybenzone-containing sunscreens banned by 2020. The ban also includes sunscreens that contain methyl paraben and ethyl paraben.
Businesses and vendors caught selling these sunscreens after the ban goes into effect could face penalties of up to $1,000 per violation. Tourists entering Palau will have these sunscreens confiscated as well.
Palau has for years taken very seriously the importance of preserving marine habitats. It is home to one of the world’s largest marine habitat preserves, the 190,000 square mile Palau National Marine Sanctuary. Fishing is only allowed in 20% of its national waters and is limited to a small number of fishers.
Tourism and the service sector dominate Palau’s economy, but even though tourism is so important, Palau takes environmental protection very seriously. Before entering Palau, tourists watch a brief video that explains the impact tourism can have on Palau’s environment, and visitors are required to sign a pledge to Palau’s children that they will not harm the environment during their staf.