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Incorrect package label leads to $278,000 ARB fine for eyeglass maker

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An international manufacturer and distributor of optical products, Carl Zeiss Vision Inc., has been fined $278,000 for violating California air pollution laws. The penalty was announced yesterday by the California Air Resources Board (ARB).

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For over three years, according to the ARB, the company sold cleaning wipes that violated a state rule that limited the content of volatile organic compounds (VOC) in them. Apparently, the company ran afoul of the regulation because the language on the label for its product, Lens Cleaning Wipes, made claims that the wipes could be used for general cleaning purposes instead of just for eyeglasses, thus putting it into a different, more stringent category.

Violation of the 0.5 percent VOC limit resulted in an excess emission of nearly 22 tons of VOC.

Reducing emissions of VOC is important because it is a key component in the formation of photochemical smog. Residents of Bakersfield and Kern County live in the smoggiest air basin in the entire nation according to recent data.

“ARB is constantly working to ensure that products sold to consumers in California meet the standards for smog-causing chemicals,” said ARB Enforcement Chief Jim Ryden. “By working with manufacturers to reduce VOC emissions we have, to date, successfully reduced statewide emissions by about 230 tons per day compared to 1990 levels.”

Part of the penalty, $38,000, has been suspended for 18 months. ARB agreed to let the company attempt a reformulation of the product during that time period. If the reformulation attempt is unsuccessful, then the suspended penalty must be paid.

In the meantime, packages for the wipes have been relabeled to specifically warn that they are to only be used on optical glass, which is exempted from the regulations. All of the penalty fees will be paid into California's Air Pollution Control Fund which provides money for air quality improvement projects and research.

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