PALAU, at least two Caribbean islands, and several U.S. states and territories — including the CNMI — have banned certain types of sunscreen “due to the damaging toll chemicals take on the environment,” as Brad Lenahan would put it in an online article.
In the CNMI, Public Law 21-20 was signed by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres on April 3, 2020 to “ban the importation of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, or BP-3, and octinoxate.”
Rep. Ivan A. Blanco authored the bill that became P.L. 21-20.
According to the CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife, which supported the bill, research “has shown that both oxybenzone and octinoxate are highly toxic chemicals that kill juvenile coral. These chemicals are also blamed for increasing coral bleaching — making them vulnerable to stress even at temperatures below 87.8°F — and cause genetic damage to coral and other marine organisms.”
Recently, Dr. Brett Sallach of the University of York’s Department of Environment and Geography noted that researchers have found “that the majority of research on [sunscreen] compounds focuses on freshwater organisms and ecosystems, and that environmental conditions can either increase or decrease the response to toxic elements, making the true risk of the compounds difficult to establish.”
Sallach said researchers now “aim to highlight…priority areas to better inform regulators and policy makers to improve conservation and management of coral reefs, whilst ensuring that human health can continue to be protected by [sunscreen] products.”
For his part, Matt McGrath of BBC News stated that for researchers, “the biggest threat to coral reefs is climate change, with estimates that 90% of reefs will succumb to rising temperatures by 2050. The second biggest threat is the suffocating threat posed by algal blooms, triggered by the runoff of nutrients from sewage and farming. Sunscreen is now seen as one of a number of other, lesser threats including ocean acidification.”