Friday, April 07, 2006

Lead Paint Poisoned 10,000 of Children Since 1990

Three former makers of lead paint created a public nuisance that continues to poison children.

The companies that once made lead paint and pigment could be held responsible for millions of dollars in cleanup and mitigation costs, though the state never put a dollar value on its lawsuit.

The lead paint created a sweeping public nuisance that has poisoned tens of thousands of children since the early 1990s and contaminated hundreds of thousands of homes. The sale of lead paint was banned in the United States in 1978 after studies showed it can cause serious health problems in children.

Injuries to children from lead paint cause irreparable harm - brain damage that is irreversible, nervous system disorders, delays in development, and many other permanent conditions. Lead poisoning robs vulnerable children of the potential to become all they might be, and particularly afflicts children of color.

Jurors Wednesday found three companies named in the suit, Sherwin-Williams Co., NL Industries Inc. and Millennium Holdings, were responsible.

The state brought in doctors, who described how low levels of lead can be dangerous to a child and how lead-poisoned children can suffer behavioral disorders, gastrointestinal pain, brain damage and even death.

It's attorneys argued that the companies or their corporate predecessors continued to manufacture lead pigment for use in paint even when they its potential dangers.

The companies said lead paint remained a problem in only a narrow subsection of poorly maintained properties. They also said paint is not the only source of lead exposure and argued that the state did not prove a clear link between the lead pigment they made and children who were poisoned by lead in Rhode Island.

Jurors were asked to decide whether the presence of paint creates a public nuisance and, if so, whether the companies significantly contributed to the nuisance and should be required to help fix the problem.

The state wants the companies to pay for a program that would include home inspections, lead paint removal or abatement and public education. It did not estimate a cost.

Last June, the state agreed to drop DuPont Co. from the lawsuit after the company said it would pay several million dollars to the non-profit group Children's Health Forum for lead paint remediation


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