Several companies have agreed to pay $305 million to settle lead paint lawsuits brought by a number of California communities, resolving litigation that has dragged on for nearly 20 years and avoiding a prior award of $1.1 billion in damages.
The lead paint settlement was announced on Wednesday, in filings at Santa Clara County Superior Court. Sherwin-Williams, ConAgra Grocery Products Co. and NL Industries have agreed to fund a remediation program in communities across the state with older housing that contains lead paint. They will pay in installments, beginning with a $75 million payment later this year.
The case involved allegations that the paint suppliers knew how dangerous lead contained in their products was, but hid that data from the public. In 2014, a judge ordered the companies to pay $1.1 billion in damages. However, in 2017, another court ruled that they could only be held responsible for lead paint in housing that predates 1951.
Similar lawsuits against lead paint manufacturers have failed in most other states, including Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
The communities which will benefit from the settlement includes the counties of Alameda, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solana, and Ventura. The cities of Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco are also included.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 535,000 children ages 1-5, or about 2.6% of such children in the U.S., have levels of lead in their blood that place them at risk for adverse health effects. To come up with that number, the CDC analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from the years 1999 to 2002, and 2007 through 2010.
Childhood lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among young children. More than half a million children in the U.S, have lead blood levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the “level of concern” reference set by the CDC.