The Pacific Ocean archipelago of Palau is to ban "reef-toxic sunscreens" under the Responsible Tourism Education Act of 2018, signed into law by President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr on 25 October.
Reef-toxic sunscreens can no longer be manufactured or imported with the intent to sell under the Act.
The sunscreens are defined as skin-care products sold for topical use containing any of the following ingredients:
- oxybenzone (benzophenone-3);
- octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate);
- 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor;
- methyl paraben;
- ethyl paraben;
- butyl paraben;
- benzyl paraben; and
Starting 1 January 2020, no one will be permitted to bring, buy, sell, import or manufacture products containing these ingredients into the republic. Anybody entering Palau with the prohibited items will have them confiscated. Retailers that violate the law will be subject to a maximum penalty of $1,000 per violation.
Palau's ban on reef-toxic sunscreens follows in the footsteps of Hawaii, which in July became the first US state to ban the sale or distribution of sunscreen containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. Hawaii's ban comes into force in 2021.
Palau, a collection of hundreds of coral and volcanic islands about 890 km east of the Philippines, is heavily reliant on tourism revenue. As a result, while signing the bill into law, President Remengesau said it would "invite visitors to be part of the solution".
Palau's legislation comes after a study on Jellyfish Lake, a Unesco World Heritage site. The study on the accumulation of sunscreen in the endemic golden jellyfish and lake water found the presence of oxybenzone in the water, sediment and jellyfish samples.
The study recommended that visitors only use eco-friendly sunscreen in and around lake. It also said products should not contain the ten ingredients listed above.
Palau's law also sets out that tour operators should provide customers with reusable alternatives to disposable plastic or polystyrene cups, plastic or polystyrene food containers, water bottles and drinking straws. These can either be reusable water dispenser and food containers or reusable individual containers or straws or "other means" which are not specified.