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I don't like the smell of this...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

By Alex Formuzis, EWG Director of Communications

Driving the ladies wild just became more expensive.

Conopco Inc. d/b/a Unilever, the company that makes the popular male body spray AXE, has been fined more than $1 million by California for releasing volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, every time a young man sprays himself down before hitting the club or heading off to school.

I remember it was Drakkar Noir and Obsession for Men back in my day; too bad neither did a thing for me. Could it have been my liberal applications of both that had the girls running flat out in the opposite direction? Who knows?

Fast-forward from the cologne-fueled mid-80's to today. Millions of young men now keep a bottle of AXE body spray in their rooms, lockers or glove boxes. That's where I kept mine. Again, maybe part of my problem. You propel your A-X-E with W-H-A-T? A can of AXE uses volatile organic compounds (aka VOCs) as propellants. In fact, VOCs are used in most spray products, including hair spray and paint. VOCs force the substance from the can into the air and onto whatever surface it's meant to coat. In the case of AXE, that's the body.

VOCs, which are significant contributors to low-level air pollution, can be naturally occurring or synthetic. They are numerous and varied; i.e., they're everywhere. For that reason, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates VOCs in water, air and land. The agency also regulates certain VOCs in household products.

The California story The use of VOCs at low levels is sanctioned in California. But if a product emits the pollutant above the legal limit, the state Air Resources Board (ARB) will fine the manufacturer. The board's Enforcement Chief, James Ryden, sums it up like this:

"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."

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