Lead Paint Abatement Costs of $1.1B Ordered by California Judge

A California judge has ordered three paint manufacturers to pay about $1.1 billion to remove lead paint from homes, finding that the companies are responsible for the abatement costs since they sold the paint despite known health risks of lead exposure, which may cause serious developmental issues for children.

The verdict ends a lead paint lawsuit brought by California local governments in 2000, which went to trial starting in July.

On Monday, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James P. Kleinberg called lead-based paint a public nuisance that was sold by Sherwin-Williams, ConAgra, and NL Industries for decades and ordered the companies to pay to help remove it from houses across the state.

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Lead Poisoning Lawsuits

Children diagnosed with lead poisoning after exposure to peeling or chipping lead paint in a rental home may be entitled to financial compensation and benefits.


Judge Kleinberg indicated that the ruling will improve thousands of children’s lives, and may actually save lives by preventing lead poisoning due to exposure to pealing or flaking paint inside homes.

The case was brought by ten city and county governments across California, which sought to force the companies to pay to have the paint removed. DuPont and Atlantic-Richfield Co. were originally included in the lawsuit, but claims against them were dismissed by Judge Kleinberg.

According to allegations raised at trial, the manufacturers knew about the dangers of lead paint, which can cause developmental issues in children, long before it was banned in 1978. The lawsuit alleged that they sold it to homeowners anyway.

The companies are expected to appeal the ruling.

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. An estimated 5 million homes in the communities that filed the lawsuit could require lead paint abatement, with many in low-income neighborhoods. About 55% of the money from the verdict will be used for the removal of lead paint in Los Angeles County homes alone.

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. However, 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.


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