DFW: Sunscreen bill important for marine life

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DEPARTMENT of Lands and Natural Resources-Division of Fish and Wildlife Director Manny Pangelinan said the bill that would ban sunscreen products that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate is crucial to the preservation of CNMI marine life.

H.B. 21-28, which was introduced by Rep. Ivan Blanco, has been passed by the House of Representatives and is now in the Senate.

Pangelinan said the chemicals mentioned in the bill “find their way through the ecosystem and can damage corals, which [serve as] habitat for the fish.”

According to the bill, studies show that oxybenzone and octinoxate “degrade corals’ resiliency and ability to adjust to climate change factors and inhibit recruitment of new corals.”

The bill states that “Hawaii became the first place in the U.S. to turn these findings into something concrete, a first-of-its-kind legislation to outlaw the sale of sunscreens that contain the ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate. In 2018, the Republic of Palau enacted similar legislation. The Palau legislation came after a 2017 report from the Coral Reef Research Foundation, which found widespread sunscreen toxins in the endemic golden jellyfish and lake water on Jellyfish Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage site. In addition, the Key West City Commission also voted to ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. Beginning in January 2021, Key West will ban such sunscreens from sale within city limits.”

“We welcome the bill because we have a lot of challenges already besides climate change and coral bleaching,” Pangelinan said. “We don’t want the corals to die because of stressful chemicals that are continuously introduced to the water.”

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