ANGELES -- A California judge has ordered three paint companies to pay for the
removal of lead from millions of older homes in the state. It won't be cheap:
the fine levied by the judge totals just over $1 billion.
house Eduardo Sencion bought in North Hollywood three-and-a-half months ago was
built in the 1930s. He figured it may contain lead paint and says he was
concerned for his kids' safety.
OnTuesday, inspectors found lead paint on the windowsills and kitchen counter. This
is the kind of lead removal a California judge wants several paint companies to
now pay for.
his decision Monday, the judge ruled that three companies created a "public
nuisance" by selling lead paint before it was banned in 1978. The $1.1
billion fine will be used to remove lead paint in an estimated 4.7 million
California homes, many in low-income neighborhoods.
low levels of lead can damage a child's mental and physical development. A nationwide
survey found that 52 percent of homes built before 1978 still contain lead
Campbell is a spokesperson for the paint companies who plan to appeal the
no time did any public health official say that there was a concern about
lead-based paint," Campbell says. "In fact, the concerns that are
alleged today were unknown and unknowable decades ago."
the judge said the companies did know lead paint was hazardous. In a document
from the year 1900 revealed in court, Sherwin-Williams described the white lead
in its paint as a "deadly cumulative poison."
lawsuits against the paint industry in seven other states have failed, making
the California ruling a big victory. But it took a long time; the litigation in
California began 13 years ago.