How the Paint Industry Escapes Responsibility for Lead Poisoning


The main focus of my story in January about the link between lead and crime was on leaded gasoline. That was mainly because the rise and fall of leaded gasoline following World War II tracks the rise and fall of crime between the 60s and 90s. However, lead is lead, and the lead in leaded paint has all the same ill effects when small children are exposed to it: it reduces IQ, increases learning disabilities, and affects parts of the brain linked to impulse control. Despite that, activist groups haven’t had much luck holding the paint industry accountable. Lilly Fowler reports for us today on what happened:

Apart from one settlement, the industry has successfully fended off roughly 50 lawsuits by states, cities, counties, and school districts over the past quarter century. Now, in a trial under way in San Jose, California, industry lawyers are seeking a final victory in a case brought by 10 agencies, including the cities of San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego, and the counties of Los Angeles and Santa Clara. The agencies want the industry to cover the cost of eliminating lead paint from all the homes in their jurisdictions; the price tag could exceed $1 billion.

….Defense lawyers have argued in a brief that the companies weren’t aware when they promoted lead paint that it would someday cause harm. “Scientific knowledge concerning lead exposure evolved over the decades,” it reads. What’s more, they claim there is no longer any widespread danger from lead. Today’s blood lead levels, according to their court filings, do not present “a current public health crisis” but rather “a public health success story.”

What’s more, they argue, California already has a well-funded lead poisoning prevention program that collects annual fees primarily from the gasoline industry, but also from makers of paint and other lead-containing products.

Unfortunately, the research linking lead to crime has probably come too late to have an impact in this case. Read the whole thing to learn how the paint industry has managed for decades to avoid responsibility for the catastrophic effects of their products.

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Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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