Oxybenzone, a chemical widely used in sunscreens 2021 is linked to birth defects, according to a new scientific study released on Tuesday.

Sunscreen products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate which will be banned in Palau by 2020 because they contain chemicals that are harmful to the coral reefs.

Oxybenzone can be found in many sunscreen products, lip balms, shampoos, conditioners, body fragrances, mascaras, hand and dish soaps, and insect repellents, but also single-use plastic packaging and toddler pacifiers and teethers.

The study noted that oxybenzone may increase the risk for a birth defect called Hirschsprung’s disease (HSCR), a condition that impacts the colon and leads to bowel obstruction in newborns.

According to the study, a group of 423 Chinese patients and their mother were tested with 101 diagnosed with HSCR, 103 required surgery for other digestive disorders, and 219 were otherwise healthy.

Based on the data obtained, the study said there was a “positive association between women identified with medium to high of oxybenzone in urine and the incidence of HSCR.”

Denis Dudley, M.D., an OB/GYN, said in a statement accompanying the study said that oxybenzone is harmful to the unborn, young or adolescent children, and couples trying to conceive.

“Oxybenzone and other soluble petroleum-based sunscreen filters permeate human skin and will contaminate even the unborn, representing a major exposure to hormone disrupters for all of us,” he said.

In Palau, the Bureau of Tourism is preparing a regulation on the ban on various chemicals identified to be harmful to the coral reefs.

Kevin Mesebeluu, Director of Bureau of Tourism said the regulation is being prepared by the agency.

He said the regulation would ensure those tour operators, importers and customs officials will be properly informed on key product information.

Mesebeluu said they expect to roll out the regulation soon after getting input from stakeholders.

He said the bureau is also working with experts to determine a number of options for oxybenzone-free sunscreen products that can be made available in Palau.

The new law which will take effect by January 1, 2020 bans retailers importing or selling sunscreen that contain the harmful products. Importers violating the law face a $1,000 fine, while sunscreens found carried by tourists will be confiscated.

“The power to confiscate sunscreens should be enough to deter their non-commercial use, and these provisions walk a smart balance between educating tourists and scaring them away,” Remengesau told leaders of Palau Congress when he signed the bill into law last year.  (Bernadette H. Carreon)