CARB reaches $193,507 settlement with The TJX Companies Inc. for violating toxic formaldehyde emissions rule
SACRAMENTO – The California Air Resources Board has reached a settlement agreement with well-known retailer The TJX Companies Inc. for $193,507 for failing to follow a statewide clean-air regulation that limits emissions of formaldehyde, a toxic air contaminant that causes cancer.
The TJX Companies (TJX) of Framingham, Mass., which owns and operates TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, and Marshalls stores in California, sold, supplied or offered for sale in California a variety of products, including home décor and furnishings, that exceeded emissions limits for formaldehyde in composite wood products.
CARB determined that TJX sold unlabeled products and failed to take adequate precautions to ensure the products they imported and sold were compliant with California clean air regulations. Products that exceeded emissions limits for formaldehyde included a decorative box, wall decorations, shelving, a foot stool, various tables and other products.
“CARB’s programs are designed to make sure no one in California is exposed to toxic formaldehyde emissions from composite wood flooring, furniture, or other related products,” said CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey.
As the middleman between manufacturers, distributors and consumers, retailers serve a critical role in ensuring the products they sell are compliant with existing clean air regulations to protect the health of California consumers — and to avoid large penalties through enforcement action.
“Retailers must proactively verify the products they sell are compliant, document those efforts, and sell products adequately labeled as compliant,” said Enforcement Division Chief Todd Sax. “Anything less and businesses will be held accountable through enforcement action.”
TJX has since implemented measures to ensure future compliance with the air toxic control measure.
Composite wood products are manufactured with glue, wood veneers, and wood byproducts. However, glues used in composite wood can also emit formaldehyde. To protect public health, in 2007 CARB established strict emission standards for hardwood plywood, particleboard, and medium density fiberboard. CARB’s regulation applies to all composite wood manufacturers, importers, fabricators, distributors, and retailers of products sold in California. It requires that composite wood materials are produced in a mill certified by a verified third-party that it meets California standards; steps are taken to ensure materials are compliant and documented as such; and all products are properly labeled to indicate they are fully compliant with California regulations.
This is not TJX’s first violation of a California air quality regulation. In 2019, TJX violated state regulations limiting smog-forming chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in a wide range of household products. VOCs are a key 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. In that case, TJX was fined $196,800 for importing and selling noncompliant chemically formulated products in 2019.
The penalties paid by TJX in the current case were deposited in the state’s Air Pollution Control Fund which helps ensure the integrity of California’s air pollution control programs by mitigating various effects of air pollution through the advancement of cleaner technology and educational programs.