Prosecutors Sue Home Depot for Air Quality Violations
|June 3, 2011
On June 2, 2011, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD)
filed a lawsuit against The Home Depot Inc. alleging tens of thousands of
air quality violations for displaying and selling coatings and paints at
Southland stores that contain high levels of smog-forming ingredients. Home
Depot is the largest home improvement chain in the region.
The AQMD conducted the investigation that led to the lawsuit. District
attorneys for Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties and the city
attorney for the City of Los Angeles filed a related case on the same day
alleging unfair business practices by Home Depot. The concurrently filed
lawsuit alleges that Home Depot misled customers with false information
about their products and in so doing sought an unfair business advantage
over their competitors.
“Compliance with our paint and coating regulations is essential to this
region reaching clean air goals that are protective of public health,” said
Barry Wallerstein, AQMD’s executive officer. “Home Depot knowingly misled
customers by selling higher polluting, non-compliant products in its
The lawsuit alleges that Home Depot sold thousands of cans of sealers, clear
wood coatings, lacquers and other paints and coatings in violation of air
quality regulations. AQMD inspectors checked for violations at Home Depot
stores simply by checking cans on the shelf to see if their labeled volatile
organic compound (VOC) content exceeded AQMD’s limits. Illegal products were
found at more than two dozen stores. Products were found at stores even
after Home Depot corporate management had been notified of the problem. Some
of the products had been marked down for quick sale.
AQMD’s Rule 1113 prohibits the manufacture, distribution, sale or use of
non-compliant coatings in the South Coast Air Basin. Under the California
Health & Safety Code, violations of the regulation could subject Home Depot
to penalties of up to $10,000 for each and every violation. Further, under
the Business and Professions Code, Home Depot is subject to additional
penalties of up to $2,500 for each act of unfair competition and $2,500 for
each act of false and misleading advertising.
Paints and coatings are a major source of air pollution, responsible for 23
tons per day of VOC emissions in the Southland, an amount greater than that
emitted by 1.5 million cars. VOCs combine in the atmosphere with nitrogen
oxides to form ground-level ozone, also known as summertime smog. Ozone
causes a wide range of adverse health effects from worsening of asthma
symptoms to increased emergency department visits and hospital admissions.
In recent years AQMD has focused inspections on home improvement retail
stores to ensure that paints sold to consumers comply with air quality
AQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major
portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
This page updated:
June 07, 2011