Los Angeles County is expected to receive more than $630 million to clean up homes that contain lead-based paint. The California Superior Court has ordered companies Sherwin Williams, National Lead and ConAgra to pay $1.15 billion into a fund to remove lead paint from homes in various counties and cities throughout the state.
The court decision is the largest public nuisance award in the history of the state and comes after 13 years of vigorous litigation. The case has already gone up to the Court of Appeal twice and the California Supreme Court once.
Children exposed to lead can suffer from neurologic impairments that hinder their ability to learn. Even though lead-based paint was banned in 1978, more than 1.5 million homes in Los Angeles County still have traces of it. In fact, the main cause of lead poisoning for children in the county is exposure to lead-based paint. From 2007-2011 there were more than 40,000 reported lead poisonings for children under the age of 21, with high blood lead levels. Nearly 500 of these children were treated for very high blood lead levels.
In 2007, while in the state senate, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas authored legislation that increased lead screenings of children at high risk of lead poisonings in California. The bill also improved reporting to ensure that children with elevated blood lead levels are appropriately tracked and are getting the help they need.
“Lead poisoning continues to be an issue for too many families,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “I am pleased that the County of Los Angeles can begin to take steps to remediate that and protect the health of our children with this court decision.”
Homes with a current or past history of lead poisoned children will be given priority. In addition to the homes where children have been poisoned, Los Angeles County plans to target more than 85,000 homes that are in low income neighborhoods. Those worried that their child has been exposed to lead can ask their physician for lead testing and parents who do not have a doctor for their child can also call the hotline for referrals to free and low-cost health services for children and teens.
“California Superior Court Judge Kleinberg’s decision is clear,” said, Dr. Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, Los Angeles County Director of Public Health and Health Officer. “Companies that knowingly manufactured and sold lead paint for interior use in residences despite knowing that it poisoned children, must be held accountable for their actions.”
For more information call the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Hotline at 1-800-LA-4-LEAD or visit: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/lead/