Homeowners in Los Angeles County living in houses contaminated by lead paint got a break recently from the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld an 18-year-old California court ruling requiring paint manufacturers to spend $409 million to clean up and test for lead paint in several California communities.
"It's at the top of our list of environmental threats," Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the interim health officer and medical director for Los Angeles County, told the Los Angeles Times for an article about the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
The October 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision concerns Sherwin-Williams, Conagra and NL Industries, which are responsible for lead paint found in homes built before 1951 in 10 California cities and counties, including Los Angeles County, according to an article by Reuters. The communities initially filed a lawsuit in 2000 against the three multinational corporations, claiming that the lead paint-producing companies should be held responsible for cleaning up poisonous lead paint in residential homes.
How bad is lead paint poisoning in California?
The number of cases of lead paint poisoning in California has decreased in recent years, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, more than 2,000 children in Los Angeles County still test positive for lead poisoning each year.
That probably explains why a pediatrician with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health testified in one of the lawsuits against Sherwin-Williams, Conagra and NL Industries that of all the environmental health problems facing children in Los Angeles County, exposure to lead paint was "No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8."
Nationwide, an estimated 4 million households have children exposed to high levels of lead, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, that figure could be even higher due to lack of lead paint testing in many houses and in many patients throughout the country.
What health problems are caused by lead paint poisoning?
Due to health risks associated with exposure to lead paint, the federal government banned the use of lead paint in residential homes in 1978, according to the CDC.
Exposure to lead (either in the air, in drinking water or through direct contact) can cause serious health problems, according to the Mayo Clinic. In particular, children under 6 years old exposed to lead can have lifelong health problems.
Common health problems associated with exposure to lead paint include:
- Permanent developmental delays
- Learning disabilities
- Physical disabilities
- Delayed growth
- Premature births (among pregnant women exposed to lead paint)
Other serious and potentially fatal health problems associated with exposure to lead paint are common. That's why it's critical to test for the presence of lead paint.
What the Supreme Court decision means for California homeowners
The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision will allow Los Angeles County and the other communities in California who took legal action against lead paint producers to test for lead paint in homes built before 1951, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Specifically, a $409 million abatement fund set up by Sherwin-Williams, Conagra and NL Industries will pay for lead paint testing in these homes, as well as provide funding to safely remove such lead paint from these residences.
"We are delighted that the Supreme Court did the right thing," Nanci E. Nishimura, an attorney for several of the jurisdictions, told the Los Angeles Times. "The message is clear: We have to move this fund ahead to remove lead that is still poisoning children."
If you believe you or your child has been exposed to lead paint in Southern California, contact our law firm to learn more about your rights and the legal options available to you.