Palau steps up! The first country to ban chemical sunscreens toxic to Coral Reefs

Palau steps up! The first country to ban chemical sunscreens toxic to Coral Reefs

November 18, 2018

The beautiful island country of Palau has banned 10 chemicals commonly used in personal care  products thought to be toxic to coral reefs. The archipelago is made up of about 200 largely pristine and mostly uninhabited limestone and volcanic islands. With its stunningly diverse marine life and coral reef ecosystems, it has been dubbed the “underwater Serengeti”.

Palau is also home to the UNESCO Heritage Site Jellyfish Lake. The marine lake is home to the famous Golden Jellyfish. Palau relies heavily on dive tourism and sees about 100,000 visitors a year and most will visit and maybe don a mask and snorkel or dive Jellyfish Lake.

You have probably heard that Hawaii has banned two chemical sunscreens (Oxybenzone and Octinoxate) in an effort to protect the island’s coral reefs. Jellyfish Lake provides a unique semi-closed aquatic ecosystem to begin to quantify chemical sunscreen pollution and examine Golden Jellyfish tissue to explore levels of bioaccumulation in aquatic organisms.

Most studies to date have focused primarily on the chemical sunscreen Oxybenzone (BP3).  BP3 is known to penetrate the epidermis and bioaccumulate in human tissue. Studies in Palau have been expanded to include not only chemicals found in personal care products but also certain BP3 metabolites (chemicals metabolized and converted by the jellyfish from BP3 resulting in new chemicals). All of the tissue samples taken from Jellyfish in Jellyfish Lake were positive for BP3 at higher levels than associated water samples and three different BP3 metabolites were also detected.

The general conclusions drawn from these studies in Palau has led to a mandate that only eco-friendly sunscreen be allowed for use or sold in Palau and Jellyfish Lake.  

Some things we can all do:

  • Apply sunscreen with non-chemical Zinc Oxide active ingredient for protection at least 20 minutes before entering the water. While Zinc does not require any lead time to function, pre-application can lessen ANY oils entering the water.
  • Promote the use of Eco-Friendly Sunscreen Brands in ALL aquatic ecosystems. Our oceans are universally under a lot of stress. While global warming is the greatest stress on Coral Reefs, any additional impact albeit smaller, can lessen corals ability to respond and rehabilitate from ocean warming events which can lead to Coral Bleaching. 

    If you like this article please let us know. Also please like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram. If you are seeking a Reef-Safe sunscreen for your next trip, please check out some of our water-resistant chemical free sunscreens like BurnOut Ocean Tested Sunscreen and our new Natural For-Family Sunscreen, both with 20% Zinc Oxide UV Broad Spectrum protection.

    The 10 ingredients banned in Palau for the year 2020.

    • oxybenzone (benzophenone-3);
    • octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate);
    • octocrylene;
    • 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor;
    • triclosan;
    • methyl paraben;
    • ethyl paraben;
    • butyl paraben;
    • benzyl paraben; and
    • phenoxyethanol.


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