SANTA CLARA: County Sues Paint Companies Over Health Risks of Lead Paint
Santa Clara County filed suit last week against eight of the country's largest paint manufacturers and the Lead Industries Association, charging them with deliberate concealment of health hazards resulting from lead paint. The county is the first in the nation to take legal action against corporate paint makers. "Inspired by the national tobacco settlement," the county attacked the industry for its "callous disregard of the health and welfare of people, especially children" in their "fraudulent concealment of facts," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The county claims that paint "companies knew of the dangers associated with lead paint as early as 1904 ... [but] continued to produce and promote the product." County counsel Ann Ravel said, "These companies knew about the health hazards. ... Yet they encouraged its purchase by schools, hospitals and individual homeowners. This misrepresentation has caused widespread damage." Santa Clara County is seeking an unspecified sum of money to compensate for abatement, testing of children, increased health care and educational programs associated with the use of the paint. Tim Hardy, legal representation for Houston-based NL Industries Inc., one of the defendants, said, "This litigation tries to make a scapegoat of companies. It substitutes legal wrangling for serious efforts to reduce childhood lead poisoning." Other defendants in the suit include: Atlantic Richfield Co. of Los Angeles; Sherwin-Williams Co., of Cleveland, Ohio, and DuPont Co. of Wilmington, Delaware. Some 890,000 children nationally have lead poisoning, 5,900 of whom reside in Santa Clara County; lead poisoning can cause behavioral problems, learning disabilities and brain damage. Higher levels of exposure can result in hearing loss, kidney damage and death (Pence, 3/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.