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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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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