Six US retailers fined for violating CARB’s VOC regulations

Six large retailers have been fined by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for violations of air quality regulations limiting smog-forming chemicals found in a range of household products including air fresheners, general-purpose cleaners and multipurpose lubricants.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are an important component of the chemical mixture that turns into ozone when exposed to sunlight. CARB has established VOC limits for several 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 VOC limits.

CARB found retailers Walgreens and Hobby Lobby in violation because they did not adhere to the warning from manufacturers and sold products clearly labelled as ‘not for sale in California’. Walgreens was fined $80,000 (€73,500) and Hobby Lobby $4,920 (€4,500). During a routine inspection at a Hobby Lobby in California, a CARB inspector obtain a sample of Dried Floral Preservative, an aerosol floral coating manufactured by Gemini Industries and distributed solely by Hobby Lobby.

Save Mart Companies and Walmart Stores were found to be in violation for failing to ensure private label products met Califonia’s VOC standards. Some retailers sell products under their own private label and although they do not directly manufacture the products, they are responsible when their brand name appears on the product. Save Mart Companies was fined $29,800 (€ 27,400) and Walmart Stores $8,500 (€7,800).

CARB fined TJX Companies $196,800 (€180,900) and Whole Foods Market $5,250 (€4,800) for importing and selling non-compliant products. According to CARB, retailers must ensure that they offer only compliant products for sale to protect the health of California consumers and to avoid penalties through enforcement action.

“Many common household products contain compounds that contribute to ground-level ozone formation,” said Todd Sax, chief of CARB’s Enforcement Division. “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 CARB’s regulations were responsible for 3.72 tons of smog-forming VOCs.

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