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Nation's Sunscreen Ban Is Global Environmental First

Palau moves to protect coral reefs and marine life from chemicals
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 1, 2020 11:00 AM CST
Updated Jan 1, 2020 11:20 AM CST
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Palau stock photo.   (Getty/Janos)

(Newser) – The island nation of Palau marked an environmental first Wednesday when its ban on most sunscreens took effect. Products with any of 10 ingredients found to be harmful to the environment can no longer be used or sold in Palau, the BBC reports. The western Pacific nation's coral reefs and marine life around its hundreds of islands make it a top destination for divers. "When science tells us that a practice is damaging to coral reefs, to fish populations, or to the ocean itself, our people take note and our visitors do too," President Tommy Remengesau said, per AFP, adding that "we will do our part to spread the word." The chemicals have been found in the tissue of marine life and can damage or kill juvenile coral, even in miniscule doses, the president said.

The word has been spreading. Hawaii's ban takes effect next year, and the US Virgin Islands is enacting one in March. Large sunscreen producers have begun calling their products "reef bill compliant." Key West has approved a similar ban scheduled for next year, though some dermatologists worry one result will be higher rates of skin cancer. Palau will confiscate illegal sunscreen from arriving tourists, and stores will face fines of up to $1,000 for selling products on the banned list. The ban will "let the ocean heal," Remengesau said, from mass commercial fishing that caused the population of certain species, including bluefin tuna, to plummet. (Read more sunscreen stories.)

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