Palau to ban sunscreen as it tries to save its coral reefs

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Palau will become the first nation to ban the sale and use of many types of sunscreen.

The nation of over 500 islands and around 21,000 people in the Micronesia region of the western Pacific Ocean has in the past taken steps to protect its biodiversity, which greatly contributes to tourism - its main economic driver.

Remengesau said that traders selling the banned products or violating the law will be fined up to $1,000.

In a law passed this week, Palau defines the banned "reef-toxic" sunscreens as containing any one of 10 chemicals, including oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are found in the majority of sunscreens sold in the US, according to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

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.

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The president also said that chemical pollution, climate change, plastic waste, and resource overconsumption threatening pristine paradise's health. "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".

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.

The government has signed a legislation that bans sunscreen and other screen care products that contain a list of ten different chemicals including oxybenzone.

For many years, researchers have been warning about the toxic effects of sunscreen products on marine life. Hawaii's ban comes into force in 2021. In Hawaii, however, tourists will still be able to bring the banned sunscreen with them into the state or buy it there if they have a doctor's prescription.

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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