Court Orders Paint Companies to Pay for Lead - Why it may never happen! by Larry Brooks

*Image obtained from Lewis Auburn Lead Program

On November 14th, after a seventeen year legal battle that broke new legal ground, California’s Sixth District Court of Appeal unanimously upheld a lower court decision ordering three lead paint manufacturers to clean up lead paint inside older homes in the County of Alameda and nine other California cities and counties. Today’s ruling holds defendants Sherwin-Williams Company, NL Industries, Inc., and ConAgra Grocery Products Company responsible for the public nuisance created by lead paint inside pre-1951 homes.

The lower court decision in 2013 would have required these paint companies to pay out over a billion dollars. Thus the reason the paint companies appealed. And the reason why they have now promised to appeal to the State Supreme Court.

Which is why I caution anyone and everyone on the side of lead poisoning prevention not to celebrate so soon.  It is very likely that if the State Supreme Court were to uphold the Court of Appeal's panel of judges decision that these paint companies would fight this all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court!

Keep in mind that more than a decade of pre-trial maneuvers, appeals, false starts, and delays preceded the ruling, that could allow local governments to address the health hazards posed by lead paint in homes built before 1951. So now in year 17 of this case one has to imagine that these paint companies have enough fight in them to go several more years if necessary to take this all the way to Washington D.C. where the Trump Administration is looking at a long list of Supreme Court nominations in anticipation of some upcoming retirements.

Thus there is a need for those who fear lead poisoning (we all should) impacting the lives of innocent children now and in the future to continue to press for policies to reduce lead hazards. 

For example here are action steps we can be taking and supporting: 

City of Oakland officials are considering a rental inspection program that would include identifying deteriorated lead based paint (primary source of most poisonings) and ordering landlords to repair it in a lead safe manner (poisonings do occur from unsafe repairs and renovations). 

The Oakland Unified School District is now testing its water by checking some faucets and shower fixtures but they are also considering lowering the acceptable lead level in water from 15 parts per billion to just 5 ppb which is the level allowed in bottled water and perhaps they can seek to go lower than that as no amount of lead in the human body is safe.

And Parents can become more proactive about getting their kids blood lead tested. Individuals with lead in their bodies may not have obvious symptoms. And one can be exposed by way of paint, water, toys, makeup, pottery, jewelry, herbal medicines and a number of other sources.

Lead can have harmful effects on the brain, nerves, red blood cells, kidneys, and reproductive systems of both children and adults.  Lead exposure is especially dangerous to young children and pregnant women. It can make it difficult for a child to learn, pay attention, and perform well in school. Increased lead levels have been associated with behavioral problems

If you think that you or your child may have been exposed to lead, you should have a blood lead test done by your medical provider or through an uninsured program, to determine if additional actions and follow-up are needed.

 We have a choice to be Smart or Not! We can:

1) Wait on the Paint Companies to contribute toward lead poisoning prevention - which may never happen.

2) Or take action to protect ourselves and our community!


LWB 11/17/17