Release 09-08
January 26, 2009

    Mary Fricke

Rite Aid fined for air quality violations
Company ignored warnings and continued to sell illegal products

SACRAMENTO:  The Air Resources Board announced today that it has fined Rite Aid Corporation $340,000 for violations of clean air regulations that require only windshield-washer fluid with specific chemical formulas be sold in California.

ARB cited the company for indiscriminately selling throughout the state windshield-washer fluid that is specially formulated for colder, mountainous areas. In these regions more volatile organic compounds are added to prevent the liquid from freezing and for removing ice formations on windshields. But in the heat of the sun VOCs contribute to ozone creation and are less necessary in the lower warmer regions. 

California’s retail stores are responsible for assuring that the products they sell comply with our anti-smog regulations," said Mary D. Nichols, ARB Chairman.

Rite Aid was found to have sold more than 10,000 gallons of non-compliant product between 2003 and 2007. The company continued to sell the products even after written and verbal communications requesting the company remove the items from their retail shelves.

Chemically formulated products offered for sale in California are subject to the state’s regulations controlling VOC content. In the heat of the sun VOCs create ozone which is the main constituent of smog.  Ozone is caustic and responsible for many adverse health effects including the exacerbation of asthma and chronic pulmonary obstructive disease.

ARB’s strategy of limiting the amount of VOCs in consumer products has contributed to the reduced number of high ozone days throughout California.  This is especially important in California’s lower-elevation air districts as they still fail to meet federal health standards for ozone.

For those Californians who live in an area that does not allow the sale of higher VOC fluids, but are traveling up to areas where freezing conditions are expected, options do exist.  Concentrated products are available that allow for dilution with water or can be added to your reservoir. These are sold in one quart containers or smaller and have instructions for use in freezing conditions.  The containers are required to be labeled with instructions that are readily visible, easily understood, and clearly specify dilutions that apply in areas of California.  There are several manufacturers which sell dilutable automotive windshield washer fluids in California. 

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.

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