ONE LEAD PIGMENT MANUFACTURER TARGETED IN DOWNSTATE LEAD POISONING LAWSUIT INVOLVING SINGLE CHILD’S POISONING
There may be a scientific development that could identify a certain manufacturer of an old lead pigment found in deteriorated paint at a specific location. This process is known as spectroscopy. That is what attorneys are claiming, on behalf of a child poisoned in his apartment in Bronx, New York. This lawsuit was brought against a former lead pigment manufacturer, NL Industries. The child’s attorneys maintain that the premises was covered with lead paint that was produced, distributed, furnished and sold by NL Industries, a claim that could not have been made until recently with the reported refinement of the spectroscopy analysis.It can be expected that NL Industries will mount a serious challenge to this case and the validity of the spectroscopy identification of a single pigment maker from a single sample of paint. If the attorneys representing the child succeed, it could bring about a new wave of product liability actions against the former lead pigment manufacturers.STATE AND MUNICIPAL ACTIONS AGAINST LEAD PIGMENT MANUFACTURERS CONTINUE AS “PUBLIC NUISANCE” LITIGATIONIn recent years, the former makers of lead-based pigments used in paints have been sued together in “public nuisance” actions brought by state and local governments around the country. They seek to have that industry bear the high cost of ridding the nation’s older housing stock of hazardous lead-based paint. It has been argued that the industry has known, as early as 1900, that its white lead pigment product was a “deadly cumulative poison.” It continued to be used in paint products for decades thereafter. The industry defendants have defended these actions in part by insisting that the municipalities could not prevail on a market share theory of liability and could not identify the actual manufacturer of particular pigments in paint.More recently, one of the defendant manufacturers has preemptively sued several cities in Ohio seeking to block their “nuisance” lawsuits in state courts and seeking to have a federal district court decide whether the nuisance suits violate the company’s constitutional rights to be free from multiple lawsuits in multiple districts, as well as the threat of inconsistent and contrary decisions.EFFORTS BEING MADE TO LESSEN RISK OF LEAD POISONING TO CHILDREN IN WESTERN NEW YORKHousing built before 1978 often contains old leaded paint on window surfaces and other painted wood trim surfaces that have deteriorated. Flakes and chips turn into lead dust that children get onto their fingers and hands, and then transfer the lead into their bodies by mouthing their fingers and hands. Children under the age of 3 remain at greatest risk as a child’s body readily absorbs toxic lead, but children are susceptible to lead poisoning up to about age seven.
- Even low levels of lead in young children can result in reduced intelligence, attention span, learning disabilities, hearing impairment and behavior problems;
- A tiny amount of lead – concentrated in just one chip of paint – can result in serious poisoning and even irreversible developmental damage in children under the age of six;
- Children are poisoned by simple hand-to-mouth contact with leaded dust that exists from degraded lead-based paint in their homes;
- Childhood lead poisoning causes enormous societal costs, including medical and special education costs.
Childhood lead poisoning continues to be a serious public health problem, especially in the inner cities of Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, and has received increasing publicity. Billboards offer a stark message: “Lead Safe Homes = Smarter Children.” More public service announcements can be heard on the radio. Much of the credit for increased public awareness is given to organizations such as Lead Connections in Erie County (www.leadconnections.org), and the Rochester Coalition to End Lead Poisoning (www.leadsafeby2010.org). Lead Connections in Erie County is currently providing a link called “Contractor Connections” and invites contractors to sign up for lead safe work practice training programs. It also offers business development and support to start-up lead paint abatement contracting companies, as well as opportunities to obtain discounted building materials and hazard control supplies.