In 2020, Palau will enact a law banning sunscreen due to its damage on the coral life, at least unless the sunscreen manufacturers manage to change their product so that it does not damage the life that thrives within the ocean. If the law were to be violated, it would result in a $1000 fine.
The damage that sunscreen can cause to coral comes from studies, such as the one found in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, which magnifies the impact. Since sunscreen has oxybenzone, it is applied to the skin to protect against ultraviolet radiation, but it also results in coral bleaching. At the time that this study was done in 2016, approximately 6,000-14,000 tons of sunscreen lotions–every year–affect the coral reefs through boating, residential, and municipal wastewater. Marine life are also affected, since oxybenzone negatively affects the reproductive signaling among fish, which results in fewer eggs being created.
This Pacific Island nation is not the first to ban sunscreen, since Hawai’i also proposed a law banning it. Included are organizations that do business near the water, such as Mexican ecoparks.
By 2050, coupling with increased temperatures, 90% of all coral life will be affected.
It is important to understand the harm that sunscreen can cause not just to marine life, but to humans as well. In that same study from the Archives, when studying how ozybenzone affects rats, it has been shown that, just like the fish, the fertility of the mothers was severely affected. This exposure has also resulted in weight loss, increased kidney size, and increased prostate weight. So mammals are also not immune from the negative effects.
Palauans would be in deep peril from this damage in health as well as in tourism. Since the island-nation is heavily dependent on the diving business, it would cause irreparable damage to the wealth of the country. Another problem that will affect future–and current–Palauans is rising sea levels.
It is not just the Palauans, but other Pacific Island nations like the Marshallese, who are directly affected by climate change, not in the future but right now as of November 2018. In order to protect the rest of the world, they need to look to the Palauan government which is trying to combat climate change in any way.
Downs, C.A., Kramarsky-Winter, E., Segal, R. et al. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol (2016) 70: 265. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00244-015-0227-7