Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

Battle Lines Drawn Over Lead Paint Poisoning Liability

By
WebMD Health News

March 9, 2000 (Atlanta) -- Taking their cue from victories over the tobacco industry, government bodies have a new target in their sights: paint companies -- specifically those that at one time sold lead-based paint and coatings.

Regulations banning the use of lead in gasoline, new paint, food cans, and other products have substantially reduced the U.S. population's lead exposure over the past two decades, said Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., in a formal statement introducing the Lead Poisoning Expense Recovery Act in 1999. But as many as 1 million children are still exposed to lead-based products daily, he said.

Very high levels can have devastating health consequences, including brain and nervous system damage, seizures, coma, and death. Even low levels of lead in the blood can have detrimental effects on a child's ability to learn. This can be hazardous for children living in older communities where, until the 1970s, lead-based paint was used extensively.

The first salvo fired at the paint companies came from Rhode Island. Last November, the state's attorney general filed a lawsuit in state court accusing eight companies, including DuPont and Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), of promoting the use of lead paint while covering up the dangers it posed to children.

"There are many legal and technical issues involved that we believe show the Rhode Island lawsuit has no merit," DuPont spokesman Cliff Webb, director of media relations, tells WebMD. "That's why we, along with the other defendants, have filed a motion to dismiss."

ARCO spokeswoman Marylou Ferry tells WebMD in a faxed statement that ARCO has been sued unsuccessfully in a variety of cases because, in the late 1970s, ARCO bought a company that had once owned a company that made lead pigment more than 50 years ago.

"Trial lawyers are attempting to hold ARCO liable for a product that it never made, sold, or profited from -- a product that was made over 50 years ago, before the dangers of interior lead-based paint were known," she says.

The lawsuit also names as a defendant the Lead Industries Association, an industry trade group. It seeks to make the defendants pay for both treating children poisoned by lead paint and removing lead paint from buildings.

"Rhode Island's lawsuit against America's paint industry is fundamentally misdirected and will do nothing to reduce children's exposure to lead dust," says J. Andrew Doyle, president of the National Paint & Coatings Association, in a prepared statement. "Instead of wasting precious state resources on unwarranted and unsupportable litigation, Rhode Island should work with us to promote constructive solutions: community-based programs that identify and eliminate lead hazards."

But in Maryland, Baltimore lawmakers are backing legislation that would make it easier for victims of lead poisoning to sue manufacturers of lead-based paint for damages based on the theory of "market-share liability." Market-share liability states that companies can be held liable for any damages caused by use of a product that they manufactured, according to the companies' proportionate share of the market at the time their product was used.

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
 
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.
 

worried kid
fitArticle
boy on father's shoulder
Article
 
Child with red rash on cheeks
Slideshow
girl thinking
Article
 

babyapp
New
Child with adhd
Slideshow
 
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
Syringes and graph illustration
Tool
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply