CARB fines large retailers for exceeding levels of smog-forming pollution in everyday household products
SACRAMENTO – Over the past two years, the California Air Resources Board assessed fines from well-known retailers totaling $325,270 for violations of air quality regulations limiting smog-forming chemicals found in a wide range of household products including general purpose cleaners, multipurpose lubricants, and air fresheners.
The chemicals, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), are an important component of the chemical mixture that turns into ozone when exposed to sunlight. CARB establishes VOC limits for many different types of consumer products such as personal care products and cleaning supplies. Under the regulation, retailers, distributors, importers and manufacturers of consumer products are all responsible for ensuring the products they sell in California comply with the limits.
“Many common household products contain compounds that contribute to ground level ozone formation,” explains CARB Enforcement Division Chief Todd Sax. “Breathing in ozone may cause people to experience chest pain, coughing and throat irritation. It is important that retailers understand their role to ensure household products they sell meet clean air standards before those products reach California households.”
In total, the violations of the regulation were responsible for 3.72 tons of the smog-forming VOCs.
Products labeled not for sale in California
CARB found retailers in violation because they did not adhere to the warning from manufacturers and sold products clearly labeled “not for sale in California”. Products sold by the following retailers exceeded California’s VOC limits and were not meant to be sold in California:
- Walgreens - $80,000
- Hobby Lobby - $4,920
Private label products
Some retailers sell products under their own private label. Though retailers do not directly manufacture these products, individual retailers assume responsibility when they put their brand name on a product containing VOCs. CARB found the following companies in violation for failing to ensure their private label products met California standards:
- Save Mart Companies - $29,800
- Walmart Stores Inc. - $8,500
Products imported for sale
When retailers import products, they assume the liability normally associated with being a manufacturer. CARB fined the following companies for importing and selling noncompliant products:
- TJX Companies - $196,800
- Whole Foods Market - $5,250
As the middleman between manufacturers, distributors and consumers, retailers serve a critical role in supplying the people of California with compliant products. Retailers must ensure that they offer for sale only compliant products to protect the health of California consumers and to avoid large penalties through enforcement action.