Judge Orders Companies to Pay $1.1 Billion for Lead Paint Removal

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The lead paint flakes and cracks on the spindles of a porch as a painter sands the siding of a house. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

The lead paint flakes and cracks on the spindles of a porch as a painter sands the siding of a house. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

On Monday, a judge ordered three paint companies to pay $1.1 billion to remove lead-based paint in California homes in several jurisdictions, including Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, marking the end to a case that took 13 years to litigate.

According to the LA Times, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James P. Kleinberg ruled that ConAgra, NL Industries and Sherwin-Williams had exposed children to a known poison for decades when they sold lead-based paint for use in homes before it was banned in 1977 and created a “public nuisance” by their actions.

Public health historians Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner mentioned the trial to Bill earlier this year on Moyers & Company noting that a decision against the companies would mark only the second time in history that the industry has been compelled to pay for clean-up. A similar decision in 2006 in Rhode Island was later overturned by that state’s Supreme Court. Markowitz and Rosner warned that, for young children, there’s no safe level of exposure to this dangerous toxin still lurking in millions of homes across the country.

In the California ruling, the judge wrote, “The court is convinced there are thousands of California children in the Jurisdictions whose lives can be improved, if not saved through a lead abatement plan.” The LA Times reports that nearly 5 million homes in the 10 cities and counties that joined the lawsuit could require abatement. Many of those homes are in low-income neighborhoods.

Watch Bill’s interview with Markowitz and Rosner to learn more about their decades-long fight to protect children from the dangers of lead-based paint.

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  • DEB S

    What about Riverside County? My home has lead-based paint, mostly on the outside now. A county health official told me to just paint over it & I’ll be safe… REALLY!!!!

  • Anonymous

    As someone exposed and nearly killed from lead poisoning you have no choice but to have the paint removed professionally. It turns into a fine dust and literally you live in a vat of lead particles.

  • James

    Local Governments on the East Coast will install new windows and replace the Asbestos Tiles on the floors while the kids are in the schools and on weekends. They try to keep using old building with tons of asbestos in them. Asbestos was used in the mortar for the brick and block.

  • Anonymous

    Intact lead paint per se is not a significant source of lead exposure for children. Urban soil contaminated from years of leaded gasoline is. The expert on this is Howard Mielke at Tulane University in New Orleans. Here’s a link to a long radio interview he gave recently. http://www.leadfreefrisco.com/2013/05/02/the-dangers-of-lead-interview-series-top-expert-dr-howard-mielke-discusses-the-real-danger-of-lead-in-soil/

  • Anonymous

    Children are dosed with by-products of the phosphate fertilizer industry (hydrofluorosilicic acid and sodium fluorosilicate) through drinking water, processed drinks and foods. Fluoride is more toxic than lead, slightly less than arsenic (which is frequently present in this by-product). Fluoride is used in rat poison and pesticides. Despite ample scientific evidence to the contrary, officials still claim that this profitable method of disposing of toxic industrial waste is safe. Developing children are particularly at risk of lowered IQ, dental fluorosis, etc. Even pro-fluoride dentists admit that any benefits of fluoride are from topical application (toothpaste), not from ingesting it. It is the only ingredient added to water for purely “medicinal” reasons at uncontrolled doses (depending on how much one drinks). Much of Europe does not fluoridate and has no higher rates of cavities. How is it that toothpaste containers warn against children swallowing toothpaste containing fluoride (“Contact a Poison Control Center”), yet it is safe to drink (a dab of toothpaste contains a comparable amount to a glass of water)?

  • Deborah Louise Nicholson

    Lead paint in pre-1978 (also known as target housing) dwellings where families and children live throughout Massachusetts is a serious problem, particularly in housing subsidized in one way or another with public funds. Despite the laws to protect children and the Childhood Lead Paint Prevention Program (MA Dept. of Public Health), many are living in dangerous conditions that state and local agencies and officials are aware of. Why is this the case and where is all the funding for abatement, removal, and deleading—actually going? What is HUD’s position when funding requirements clearly state all applicable lead paint regulations and laws must be followed (before a subsidized unit is leased to a family with a child under six) concerning the presence of lead-based paint? If the funding was disrupted or delayed until compliance was achieved, isn’t that an option worth considering to save lives and future health care costs for these families? Lead based paint is a killer—silent maybe, but ingesting or inhaling it has serious consequences…and it also is absorbed through the skin. The tools to address this have been available for decades, and I can only imagine the amount of public funding set aside in order to begin to resolve it. However, like so many other public health issues…it will take public engagement—rather than Government regulation by lawmakers—to bring about change.

  • Anonymous

    Children chew on window sills. They are the right height. Children are still damaged from paint in old houses.