Sherwin-Williams, one of the largest and most-recognized paint companies, was recently ordered to pay $1.15 billion to fund a program aimed at addressing the health risks of lead paint exposure in California homes. Sherwin, along with two other major paint companies, was found liable for selling lead paint despite knowledge of its dangers. Lead paint exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm detail this decade-long case, and how it will impact California residents.
The case was originally filed in 2000, on behalf of California residents in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and seven other cities in the state. The final $1.15 billion settlement was ordered by a California Superior Court Judge, who stated that the public had a right to be free from the harmful effects of lead in paint. We have seen first-hand the effects of lead poisoning, and can say without doubt that lead-based paint has caused harm to entire communities, considerably interfering with quality of life.
The paint companies at issue – Sherwin-Williams, ConAgra Grocery Products, and NL Industries – are accused of continuing to sell lead-based paint even after becoming aware of its dangers. The health effects of lead exposure are now well-known and medically and scientifically documented, especially among children.
The $1.15 billion will establish a government-run program that will benefit those California residents who continue to be exposed to lead-based paint. Due to limited resources, the current government programs have not been able to meaningfully reduce the number of California homes containing lead paint.
Because of this widespread failure, the court order targets homes in the 10 previously-mentioned jurisdictions that have the greatest risk of lead poisoning to children. The program will reach out to residents, send trained inspectors to their homes, and educate them on the risks of lead paint. The judge stated that there are thousands of children in California whose lives will be significantly improved, or even saved, through this lead abatement plan.
The paint companies plan to appeal the decision, however. The three companies at issue claim that they did not fully know about the hazards of lead-based paint until it was officially banned in 1978. How true this is has been subject to much debate.
We have worked with many victims of lead poisoning over the past 35 years, and know first-hand how dangerous it can be. Children exposed to paint in their homes demonstrate severe developmental delays, and even small amounts of lead can cause serious problems. Importantly, children under the age of six are most vulnerable to lead poisoning, which manifest through their mental and physical development. At high levels, lead poisoning can even be fatal.
Lead-based paint is the most common source of lead poisoning in children, however, adults who work in auto repair shops, do home renovations, and work with batteries may also be exposed. Some of the major signs of lead poisoning in children include:
- Learning difficulties
- Hearing loss
- Sluggishness and fatigue
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Abdominal pain, constipation or vomiting
Symptoms are similar in adults, but can also include:
- Miscarriage or premature births in pregnant women
- Mood disorders
- High blood pressure
- Muscle and joint pain
- Pain, numbness or tingling of the extremities
- Declines in mental functioning
In a typical lead exposure case, parents notice symptoms in children and bring their child to a pediatrician. Depending on the severity of symptoms, the doctor may or may not immediately identify lead poisoning as the cause, but will run blood tests and x-rays to be sure. Once lead poisoning has been confirmed, the doctor usually notifies public health officials, who perform lead tests in the home.
The first step in treating lead poisoning is to remove the source of exposure, such as sealing in or removing lead paint. Local health departments can best recommend ways to reduce lead in your home. For more severe cases, medications can be prescribed to treat and help cure poisoning.
Parents can also take some simple steps to prevent and help protect your family from lead exposure. Among these include:
- Washing hands and toys after outdoor play, before eating and at bedtime
- Clean dusty surfaces with a wet mop or damp cloth
- If you have older plumbing, run water for at least a minute before using
- Eat a healthy diet – children especially need iron and calcium
More tips and information can be found here, on the Mayo Clinic’s site on lead poisoning. If you have any questions on lead exposure and its health effects, or want to know more on the legal issues of lead, contact our team of lead poisoning lawyers. Our legal consultations are always free, confidential, and are available to families nationwide.