Palau has taken the extraordinary step of banning certain types of sunscreen from its shores. Some of the chemicals found in sunscreens are toxic to corals. Authorities are concerned that a build-up of these chemicals could cause the reefs irreparable damage. The ban will take effect January 1, 2020.
The ban specifically targets sunscreens containing oxybenzone, octocrylene, and parabens. Most major brands include those chemicals in their sunscreen products. Palau will immediately stop importing these types of sunscreen, but retailers will be allowed to sell off their remaining inventory before the ban goes into effect.
After the effective date of the legislation, anyone importing or selling banned sunscreen faces a $1,000 fine. Tourists who bring banned products into the country will see it confiscated. Some sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are not affected by the ban because they are not reef toxic. Palau President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr., wrote in a statement, “This short but important bill has the potential to make a lasting impact on the environment here.”
Palau is located in the western Pacific roughly halfway between Australia and Japan. The nation is comprised of over 500 islands and has a population of about 21,000 people. The area is a scuba diving hotspot and is considered one of the world’s best diving destinations. Boats packed with tourists swarm Palau’s dive sites on a typical day.
Palau is the first nation to ban these types of sunscreens. In May this year, Hawaii announced a ban on reef toxic sunscreens that takes effect in 2021.
Palau is very serious about protecting its environment. Last year, the country introduced the ‘Palau Pledge’, which requires international visitors to pledge that they will respect the environment with a signed promise on their passport. It has also banned commercial fishing from its waters and introduced the world’s first shark sanctuary.