Lead Exposure Lawsuit Results in $358.5M in Damages for 16 Children
A St. Louis jury has awarded nearly $360 million to 16 children who suffered lead poisoning due to air pollution from a nearby smelting plant.
The lead exposure lawsuit is one of a number of claims that have targeted a smelting plant located in Herculaneum, Missouri, about 30 miles south of St. Louis. Plaintiffs allege that from 1986 to 1994, the owners knowingly released toxic levels of lead into the air, which caused lead poisoning in nearby adults and children.
According to the complaint, owners of the smelting plant knew that they were releasing toxic lead air pollution and knew about the potential health risks, but failed to ensure emissions from the plant were safe and failed to warn the public about the risk of lead poisoning.
The case, decided last week by a St. Louis circuit court jury, involved 16 children who suffered lowered I.Q.s and other developmental problems due to lead exposure. The jury awarded the children $38.5 million in compensatory damages and $320 million in punitive damages.
Each child will receive between $1.5 million and $3 million in compensatory damages. During the time period of the exposure, the plant had several different owners, so each child will receive an additional $15 million in punitive damages from Fluor Corp, $3 million from A.T. Massey Coal, and $2 million from Doe Run Investment Holdings Co.
Lead poisoning can result in nervous system injury, brain damage, seizures or convulsions, growth or mental retardation, coma and even death for young children. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consider 10 milligrams of lead per deciliter of blood to be the level of concern for exposure to lead. The CDC estimates that approximately 250,000 children in the U.S. have blood lead levels that high or higher.
One of the more common causes of lead exposure in the United States is lead paint, which was banned in 1978 due to the risk of severe and permanent brain damage and developmental problems, particularly in children. However, a number of older homes still contain the toxic paint on the walls, and if it flakes or peals off, young children could ingest the paint chips or breathe dust that comes from the paint, resulting in lead poisoning.
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