Unilever fined for contaminating California air
- Published: 16 March 2010
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A fragrant personal care spray designed to make men appear to be free of unpleasant body odor has polluted California air to the degree that the state has fined the brand-owner's corporate parent more than $1 million.
The California Air Resources Board announced last month that it has penalized Conopco Inc. d/b/a Unilever $1.3 million for illegal consumer sales of AXE Deodorant Bodyspray for Men.
Air Resources Board spokesman Dimitri Stanich says the deodorant spray contaminated California air with the volatile organic compounds used as a propellant.
Stanich said deodorant sprays sold in California have a very small specific level of volatile organic compounds, VOCS, that they are allowed to emit and this product exceeded that level.
Between 2006 and 2008, Unilever's parent company, Conopco, sold, supplied and offered for sale in California more than 2.8 million units of deodorant body spray that failed to meet the state's clean air standards for aerosol deodorants.
"We have enforcement officers that go to retail stores, check labels, take random samples and test them," said Stanich. "The process usually is testing within our lab in Sacramento."
Air Resources Board Enforcement Chief James Ryden said, "Consumer products, because of their pervasive use, contribute a growing portion of VOC emissions throughout California. Therefore, it's important that every can and bottle of product be compliant with ARB's standards."
"The good news for California is that Unilever, after being made aware of the violation, took the steps necessary to correct the violation, mitigate the impacts, and ultimately reduce the emissions from this product," Ryden said.
The violations resulted in what the Board called "significant excess emissions" from volatile organic compounds.
These emissions contribute to ground-level ozone, or smog, said Ryden. Exposure to ozone can cause lung inflammation, impaired breathing, coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and worsening of asthma symptoms. Over 90 percent of Californians still breathe unhealthy air at some time during the year.
Conopco cooperated in the investigation and will make two equal payments of $650,000 into the California Air Pollution Control Fund for projects and research to improve California's air quality, Ryden said.
The California Clean Air Act adopted in 1988 requires the Air Resources Board to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds from consumer products as a means to reach health-based state and federal ambient air quality standards.
Deodorants, hair spray, cleaning products, spray paint, and insecticides are examples of common consumer products that use VOCs as propellants.
Since 1988 Air Resources Board regulations have curbed these emissions by 44 percent, nearly 200 tons per day, and cut toxic air contaminants by 13 tons per day, according to Board figures.
Source: ENS Newsire