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article imagePalau becomes the first country to ban sunscreen to protect reefs

By Tim Sandle     Jan 4, 2020 in Environment
The Pacific nation of Palau becomes the first country to ban 'reef toxic' sunscreen, in an effort to prevent one threat of environmental damage to the reef ecosystem.
Palau has banned tanning products, like sun cream and sunscreen due to the harm that these products cause to corals and sea life. The ban came into effect on January 1, 2020. One ingredient in sunscreen products - oxybenzone - is considered to be particularity harmful.
Palau is an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean, composed of some 340 islands forming the the western chain of the Caroline Islands and representing 466 square kilometers (180 square miles). Palau's economy relies strongly on tourism, especially scuba diving and snorkeling in the islands' rich marine environment, which its barrier reefs' walls. One lagoon in the region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Palau is regarded as one of the world's best diving spots  but visitor numbers have exploded in...
Palau is regarded as one of the world's best diving spots, but visitor numbers have exploded in recent years, particularly from China, straining both infrastructure and the environment
SEBASTIEN BLANC, AFP/File
The product of concern, oxybenzone is an pale-yellow organic compound which forms colorless crystals that are readily soluble. The compound is effective at absorbing UV-A ultraviolet rays.
-Models with their smartphones wear connected swimsuits by French company Spinali Design that tell w...
-Models with their smartphones wear connected swimsuits by French company Spinali Design that tell when it's time to put on more sunscreen
SEBASTIEN BOZON, AFP
The ban means that sunscreen products will not be allowed to be worn or sold in the country. Quoted by the BBC, Palau's President Tommy Remengesau said: "We have to live and respect the environment because the environment is the nest of life."
Nautilus from the front showing mouth apparatus. Palau  Micronesia. Photo by Lee R. Berger
Nautilus from the front showing mouth apparatus. Palau, Micronesia. Photo by Lee R. Berger
Photo by Lee R. Berger (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The President adds: "We don't mind being the first nation to ban these chemicals, and we will do our part to spread the word."
The U.S. state of Hawaii will instigate a similar ban in 2021.
As well as harmful environmental effects, in the U.S. the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has initiated a review of sunscreen ingredients. Since some ingredients can affect the lungs or internal organs, and many sunscreens include ingredients that act as “penetration enhancers” which means chemicals are absorbed into the body, an assessment of the potential the toxicity of some products is underway.
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