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Unilever fined $362,500 for sales of hair products that violate California’s air pollution laws
SACRAMENTO - The California Air Resources Board today announced that Conopco Inc. has agreed to settle two cases with fines totaling $362,500 for violations of air quality laws related to the sale of hair styling products in California.
Conopco does business as Unilever and is a subsidiary of Unilever PLC, a multinational consumer goods company with U.S. headquarters in New Jersey.
Unilever agreed to pay the fine as part of settling two cases with the Air Resources Board after separate ARB investigations revealed that two products manufactured and offered for sale in California by Alberto-Culver Co. contained illegal levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In both cases the products — Motions Oil Sheen & Conditioning Spray and TreSemme Root Busting Spray — exceeded a 6 percent VOC limit under a state consumer products regulation.
VOC compounds are regulated by the ARB because they react with other pollutants under sunlight to form ground-level ozone, a main ingredient in smog.
“When consumers statewide use products that do not comply with California’s standards, they unknowingly release significant quantities of smog-forming chemicals into the atmosphere,” said ARB Enforcement Chief James Ryden. “These violations by Unilever impact air quality and public health.”
The case was a repeat violation of California’s consumer products regulations for both Unilever and Alberto-Culver, which Unilever purchased in May 2011. The settlement was enhanced as a result, but also reduced in part because Unilever purchased the manufacturer of the product and cooperated with the investigation.
The products were sold in California for more than a year. In each case, ARB staff discovered the violations after purchasing and testing the hair styling products during routine inspections.
ARB estimated that about 17 tons of excess VOCs were emitted as a result of direct sales to consumers of the two products. The case involving Motions Oil Sheen & Conditioning Spray, which resulted in most of those emissions, was settled for $355,000. The second agreement, covering VOC violation for TreSemme Root Busting Spray, was settled for $7,500.
ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.