Thailand Bans Use of Sunscreens Containing Chemicals Hazardous to Coral

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Thailand has banned the use of sunscreen products that are hazardous to coral reefs throughout its marine parks. Sunscreens containing the chemicals Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, 4-Methylbenzylid Camphor (4MBC) and Butylparaben will now be prohibited, with violations leading to a possible maximum fine of 100,000 Thai baht (£2,200).

'Studies have found that several chemical compounds in sunscreen products are harmful to coral larvae, affecting their reproductive systems and causing coral bleaching,' said Thanya Nethithammakul, director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

The worst offenders are Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, the chemicals responsible for absorbing the sun's ultraviolet light and providing the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) in sunscreens. On top of the reproductive damage and increased bleaching potential, the chemicals can damage the DNA of the coral and can grossly deform and kill juvenile corals. 

Sunscreen products considered to be 'safe' are those containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, although products containing 'nanoparticles' are already a known hazard to marine life and should be avoided. The currently best recommended products are labelled 'uncoated zinc oxide'.

The ban was made effective immediately after its announcement last week, although tourism to Thailand is limited and subject to severe restrictions, even for vaccinated travellers. As 80-90 per cent of all visits to the Thai marine parks involve scuba diving or other water-based activities, tourist operators have been asked by the national marine parks staff to inform visitors of the prohibition ahead of their visit. Any banned products found to be in the possession of visitors to the marine parks will be collected by the marine parks staff and returned to the owner once they leave.

Thailand is the latest in an expanding list of scuba diving destinations to have banned the use of chemicals hazardous to marine life, along with Palau, Bonaire and Hawai'i.


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