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The Republic of Palau, a South Pacific island nation, became the world's first country to ban sunscreen products containing environmentally harmful ingredients last Wednesday, based in part on research conducted by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Prof. Ariel Kushmaro.
The research indicates that oxybenzone coming from swimmers' skin, municipal sewage discharge and coastal septic systems pollutes coral reefs. "We found that oxybenzone caused gross morphological deformities, DNA damage and endocrine disruption, which causes the coral to close up and die," explains Prof. Ariel Kushmaro, head of the Environmental Biotechnology Lab in the Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology and Engineering.
Palau - Tourism - Education - Act - Effect
Palau's Responsible Tourism Education Act of 2018, which takes effect in 2020, prohibits use of environmental pollutants that threaten juvenile stages of many wildlife species, including corals, fish and microalgae. The banned substances contain sun protection factor (SPF) chemicals used in sunscreen lotions or fragrances that absorb ultraviolet sunlight. These include oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor, and parabens. The four parabens, triclosan and phenoxyethanol are antimicrobial preservatives also used in shampoos, moisturizers, liquid soaps, and hair conditioners.
The ban follows a similar move in Hawaii earlier this year. On May 4, the Hawaii legislature banned oxybenzone (BP3) beginning in 2021 in an attempt to prevent coral bleaching, a condition by which corals expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white.
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