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News Release: 2013-07-08

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Trial against lead paint industry to begin on Monday, July 15th

Ten California cities and counties seek to hold accountable the companies that marketed, promoted, and profited from lead paint despite knowing it was toxic to children

SAN JOSE, Calif. (July 8, 2013) -- On Monday, July 15, 2013, ten California cities and counties, representing the People of the State of California, will begin presenting their case against five lead paint companies. The Honorable James P. Kleinberg of the Santa Clara Superior Court will preside over the trial. The cities and counties allege that defendants Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), ConAgra Grocery Products Company, E.I. du Pont de Nemours, NL Industries, Inc., and the Sherwin-Williams Company's aggressive marketing of lead paint, which they knew was highly toxic to young children, has created a public nuisance that threatens the health of California's children to this day.

Santa Clara County, Alameda County, the City of Oakland, the City and County of San Francisco, the City of San Diego, Los Angeles County, Monterey County, San Mateo County, Solano County, and Ventura County, will present evidence that the lead paint companies concealed the dangers of lead, mounted a campaign against regulation of lead, and actively promoted lead for use in homes, despite knowing that lead paint was highly toxic. As a result, lead paint is prevalent in houses built prior to 1978, and continues to poison thousands of children in California each year.

"Once a child has been poisoned by lead, it's too late. The health effects are irreversible. Through this lawsuit we will force the Defendants to clean up lead paint, and prevent our children from being poisoned once and for all," said Assistant County Counsel Danny Chou, of the County of Santa Clara.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and California's Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch, lead paint is the primary cause of lead exposure for children who live in older homes. The California Legislature has declared that "childhood lead exposure represents the most significant childhood environmental problem in the state today." (Health & Saf. Code, § 124125.)

In 2009 alone, 10,875 children in the cities and counties prosecuting the case had been poisoned by lead. In 2012, the CDC released a report, the CDC Response to Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Recommendations in "Low Level Lead Exposure Harms Children: A Renewed Call of Primary Prevention, " finding that "no safe blood lead level in children has been identified." Even at the lowest levels, lead causes permanent neurological damage to children, decreasing IQ and causing other serious health consequences.

"For 13 years, we have waited for our day in court. Every day that goes by without cleaning up lead paint is another day when a child may be needlessly poisoned," added Owen Clements, Chief of Special Litigation for the City and County of San Francisco. "It is time that the responsible parties finally are held accountable."

The county counsel and city attorneys bringing the case are being assisted by the law firms of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy of Burlingame, CA; Motley Rice LLC of Providence, RI; Mary Alexander and Associates of San Francisco; and the Law Office of Peter Earle of Milwaukee, WI.

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Last updated: 7/12/2013 12:50:04 PM