Local professor advocates for harmful-sunscreen ban on Guam

(PNC file photo)

COVID-19 has often been referred to as Mother Nature’s reprieve from human impacts and Guam is no stranger to that.

Since early in the pandemic, we’ve been hearing about sharks coming closer to the shores around Tumon Bay.

Scientists and fishermen on island have also observed more diverse species of fish closer inland, and even the Pelagic sorts (that’s open-ocean fish) closer to our marinas.

While the obvious reasoning is a lack of tourists and people in the waters, there’s also an argument related to the use of sunscreen and lessened amounts of chemicals around our nature.

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Laurie Raymundo, a professor with UOG’s Marine Biology Department, says there is no specific baseline study to support scientific findings on less sunscreen-use since the pandemic began. But the effects are undeniable.

“We already know that Oxybenzone and related compounds are not good for things that float in the water…plants and larvae (and things like that). On the other hand, we’ve also done a small-scale study looking at the effects of zinc-oxide products and that’s a physical barrier, that’s the white, creamy stuff that surfers typically put on. What we found is that’s also not good,” Raymundo said.

However, much like Palau has done, Raymundo says she supports the ban of harmful-sunscreens on Guam since the effects on the ocean-life are devastating.

“You can’t buy anything at Kmart or ABC that’s reef-friendly…you just can’t, the products aren’t sold. And Hawaii has already done this; if Hawaii can do it then we should be able to do it! I definitely think that any kind of lessening of impacts that we can promote and we can demand are good,” Raymundo said.

There is currently no legislation related to a sunscreen-ban in the Guam Legislature.