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Many Homes Built Before 1978 Contain Lead Paint

Fight Against Lead Paint Poisoning Continues in Maine and Elsewhere

AUGUSTA, MAINE -- April 7, 2006 -- After Sandra Roseberry's child developed lead poisoning from paint in their home, she began a campaign for lead paint removal. Joining with other parents, environmentalists and consumers, she asked the state to file a claim against the paint industry. The groups want paint companies to pay for removing lead paint in an estimated 350,000 older Maine homes. Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe is now considering whether to proceed with a lawsuit.

"I have faith that the people in the state's office will come forward and do the right thing," Ms. Roseberry said (Portsmouth Herald Maine News, April 3, 2006). "My child will never be unpoisoned ... my mission is that other families don't have to go through this."

The request for a lawsuit against Maine paint companies comes just a month after a Rhode Island court concluded that three paint companies created a "public nuisance," damaged property and poisoned children by exposing them to lead paint. Sherwin-Williams Co., NL Industries Inc., and Millennium Holdings LLC must clean up lead paint contamination in over 240,000 Rhode Island homes.

Rhode Island was the first state to successfully sue paint manufacturers over the issue of lead poisoning. In California, an appeals court has reinstated a class action lawsuit by cities and counties against eight paint manufacturers (San Mateo County Times, March 7, 2006). The lawsuit seeks to force the paint companies to clean up lead paint contamination in California government buildings and low-income housing.

At the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a new rule about renovation, repair, and painting of houses built before 1978 that contain lead paint (71 FR 1588). The rule calls for training of contractors and certification of renovators and firms working with lead paints. It also adds safe work practice requirements. The period for commenting on the proposed rule ends on May 25, 2006. At that point, the EPA will revise and draft a final rule.

How Lead Becomes a Hazard

The manufacture of lead paint was outlawed in 1978. However, older buildings and homes may still contain lead paint, which becomes a hazard when it is disturbed, either through deterioration or repair work.

Lead is also used in plastics, electronics, building materials, batteries and some other products. According to a combined report by a Maine environmental group and a labor organization, workers in these industries may suffer from lead exposure: building and construction, ship and boat building and repair, police protection, repair and maintenance work, metal product and machinery manufacturing, waste management, plastics and minerals, furniture manufacturing and electronics manufacturing. Painters, contractors, construction workers, hobbyists, radiator repair workers and lead abatement workers may be exposed to lead.

In the home, lead-based paint harms children, who may pick up peeling paint or put paint chips in their mouths. Over 80% of homes built before 1978 contain lead paint.

Lead exposure on the job can damage the nervous system, heart, blood, kidneys and reproductive system. Pregnant women exposed to lead may give birth to babies with brain disorders. Because they are still growing, children are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead. Children exposed to lead in their homes may develop learning disabilities and impaired motor skills. They may also have decreased attention spans and suffer from memory loss.

Getting Information About Lead and Lead Paint

For more information about lead exposure, contact the National Lead Information Center. Also see the EPA web site for details about protecting you home and family from lead and checking your home for lead.

If a member of your family has been subjected to lead poisoning, we would like to help. Please feel free to contact us to learn about your legal rights. We have been representing victims of toxic substances such as lead for over 20 years. Our initial consultation is free of charge.

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