Release 07-63
December 19, 2007

    Dimitri Stanich
Wal-Mart pays $250,000 to settle air quality violations
Company sold portable fuel containers that create air pollution

SACRAMENTO: The California Air Resources Board has accepted a settlement of $250,000 from Wal-Mart Stores for selling portable gas cans throughout the state that do not comply with state clean air regulations.

"Enforcement will continue to be an important aspect of cleaning our air," said Mary Nichols, Air Resources Board Chairman. "The fumes from these cans should have been prevented."

Investigations by the ARB found that between 2003 and 2007, Wal-Mart allowed more than 3000 illegal gas cans, to enter their California distribution system and subsequently be sold.

Historically, because of their large numbers and lack of emission controls, gas cans contribute substantial amounts of hydrocarbon emissions, ozone-forming smog and related health problems. ARB's gas can regulations are intended to ensure that spillage and evaporative emissions are minimized or eliminated.

This was the fourth time in recent years that Wal-Mart was found to be distributing illegal gas cans. Recognizing this, ARB initially sought the maximum fine of $500 for each violation, but Wal-Mart's own investigations and extensive cooperation led to leniency.

The repeated violations were due to systematic computer errors that allowed the products into California. These have since been rectified. Ultimately, rather than the maximum fine it was determined that Wal-Mart pay $83 for each gas can violation. This range is four to five times the amount the individual products cost consumers.

ARB data shows that the more than 11 million gas cans statewide contribute about 100 tons-per-day of smog-forming hydrocarbons, roughly equal to the emissions from all lawn and garden equipment in the state. Of the 100 tons-per-day about three-quarters are associated with fuel evaporation from vents and other types of openings. Permeation - fumes that leak through the container walls - and spillage contribute about 16 tons per day.

Hydrocarbons from these cans can lead to the creation of ground level ozone. Ozone irritates and inflames the lining of the respiratory system and causes coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. It can worsen asthma symptoms, contribute to the development of asthma, and cause permanent lung damage. Among persons already in poor health, repeated exposure can increase the risk of death. Due to the health hazards of ozone, California has worked aggressively for decades to reduce outdoor ozone levels, with considerable success. For more information on the health effects of ozone, visit
/research/aaqs/caaqs/ozone/ozone.htm .

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.