Trial began this week for a lawsuit brought by several California municipalities against paint manufacturers, seeking nearly $1 billion in damages to pay for costs associated with lead paint removal from homes, which experts say could place children at risk for developmental delays, brain damage and other problems associated with lead poisoning.
Ten California cities and counties are suing five paint manufacturers, including Sherwin-Williams, alleging that the companies ignored health risks associated with lead paint used in about 5 million homes.
In a trial that began on Monday, the manufacturers are expected to argue that the paint is no longer a significant risk and generally deny the allegations that they knew about the risks long before lead paint was removed from the market in the late 1970s.
The case is before Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg, who will render the verdict. It was originally filed 13 years ago, but will proceed to trial following an appeals court decision.
Counties and cities that are a party to the lawsuit include the cities of San Diego and Oakland, and Los Angeles and San Francisco counties, among others.
Lead paint exposure has been linked to developmental problems in children and may even lower IQ. Other side effects of lead poisoning can include injury to the nervous system, seizures, growth or mental retardation, coma and death.
One of the most common causes of lead poisoning in the United States is lead based paint, which was banned in this country in 1978 due to the risk of severe and permanent brain damage it posed, especially among children.
Lead paint is still found in many old homes and in public housing in many urban areas. Approximately half a million children have blood lead levels between 1 and 5 mcg/dl, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers unsafe.