The Department of Land and Natural Resources, through its Division of Fish and Wildlife, has expressed support for a bill that would prohibit the importation of sunscreen containing chemicals that are deemed harmful to corals.
House Bill 21-28, HD1, which Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan) introduced, would ban the importation of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, or BP-3, and octinoxate.
“This bill is important to marine life,” said DFW director Manny M. Pangelinan.
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.
“It is [our] job to make sure that whatever is being introduced into the water will protect coral species and fish. It is our job to protect the corals. Corals provide habitat for fish,” Pangelinan said.
Pangelinan explained that the chemicals find their way to the sea through people swimming and when people wash themselves. The chemicals also enter the waters through wastewater effluent.
Pangelinan said that enforcement of the ban should be at the port of entry and in stores, where sunscreen labels should be checked, and if found that it has the chemicals, would have to be removed.
“The DFW welcomes the bill. We already have a lot of challenges besides climate change and coral bleaching, We [will not allow] our corals to die because of chemicals that are being continuously introduced into the water,” he said.