Release 10-11
February 10, 2010



Dimitri Stanich
916-716-8047 cell

Unilever parent company pays $1.3 million for air quality violations

SACRAMENTO The California Air Resources Board penalized Unilever/Conopco $1.3 million last month for illegal consumer products sales between 2006 and 2008.

Conopco, Unilever’s parent company, sold, supplied and offered for sale in California more than 2.8 million units of deodorant body spray that failed to meet clean air standards for aerosol deodorants.

“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,” said ARB Enforcement Chief James Ryden.  “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.”

The violations resulted in significant excess emissions from volatile organic compounds. These emissions contribute to ground-level ozone, or smog.  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.

The California Clean Air Act adopted in 1988 required ARB to reduce VOC emissions 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 are made with VOCs.  Since 1988 ARB regulations have curbed these emissions by 44 percent, nearly 200 tons per day, and cut toxic air contaminants by 13 tons per day.

The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency.  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.