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Lead news national

Since Flint hit the headlines, national media have found renewed focus on lead poisoning issues. 

Important Legal Decision on Lead Paint Liability

    RHINO friend EmilyB reports "Yesterday, the Court of Appeals for the State of California upheld the Santa Clara Superior Court ruling that found lead paint manufacturers responsible for the 'public nuisance' caused by the presence of lead paint. The court ordered three lead paint companies that sold and marketed lead paint to families despite knowledge of the health dangers to remove lead paint and lead-based paint hazards from all pre-1951 homes in 10 counties."  Wait!

  • The case only covers the cities of Alameda, Los Angeles, Monterey, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Ventura California, and

  • This decision will be appealed, so that we're not at the end of litigation.

The case was filed in 2000 against three lead paint manufacturers: NL Industries Inc. (Dutch Boy brand), The Sherwin-Williams Company and ConAgra Grocery Products. The case has been working its way through the courts for 17 years. Still, there are some important features of the decision.

  • The Appeals Court reduced the scope of the complaint to pre-1951 houses instead of pre-1978 homes.

  • The court upheld the plaintiff's claim based the legal principle of "public nuisance." According to the LA Times "...the judges upheld the plaintiffs’ argument that the marketing of lead paint created a 'public nuisance' — a doctrine commonly applied to landlords operating drug dens or factories with noxious emissions, but seldom on broad environmental grounds."

   Previous lawsuits, like Rhode Island's 1990 case, failed because the manufacturers claimed that they had no control over how their product was used. The California case relies on new evidence that the companies did know of the risk and promoted the product for indoor residential use.

April 24, 2017 Three stories this past week underscore the "existential" threat to lead poisoning programs.
Only one of the stories provides a pathway to success in the face of proposed EPA budget cuts and an outmoded "poisoned child" approach to prevention.
  • Living on Earth suggests fighting as hard as we can in Congress to prevent budget cuts and then no plan B.
  • "Hundreds more lead hotspots are identified as Trump prepares to gut programs. Part 2 of An ongoing Reuters investigation has found another 449 areas around the U.S. with lead exposure rates double those found in Flint. But cities across the country say pending federal budget cuts could imperil efforts to eradicate the toxic metal."
  • Nonprofit Quarterly proposes fighting as hard as we can in Congress for as much as we can get for existing programs, and then investing local tax dollars in remdediation and shifting to a system of primary prevention supported by property owner testing and compliance. If's not a matter of if...but when Cleveland and Ohio will come to their senses and stop blaming those "bad" politicians in DC.

Placed in a poisoned home by DC homeless program.
     A year ago a story like this in the WashPo would have triggered HUD into action--requiring PHAs and Rapid Rehousing providers to do lead safe clearances as a part of the Housing Choice Voucher and Rapid Rehousing programs.  Today in Trumpville...don't hold your breath. Instead, local advocates and housing providers should begin pestering your local housing authorities to 
1. require landlords to submit lead disclosure forms and 
2. require  inspections to include dust wipes by a licensed lead clearance techs and don't send your clients to untested homes. 
Or, wait til your read this story in your hometown newspaper.
     From the article: "The tragedy exposes key weaknesses in federal guidelines followed by the District and other cities to ensure safe housing for homeless families, especially those with young children, according to interviews with five housing advocates and experts. Instead of specifically testing for lead or asthma-inducing mold, D.C. inspectors following the guidelines visually check for peeling paint and deteriorating conditions. To help a property pass an inspection, some landlords simply apply a fresh coat of paint and “it looks good for one day,” said Kathy Zeisel of the Children’s Law Center. 'If there’s moisture, it starts peeling right away.' ”
     PS: a blood lead level of 120 mg/dl is 24 times greater than the CDC action level. 

July 29, 2016 Rooflines Our Denial and Inaction On the Issue of Lead How far does the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) denial about leaded drinking water go? 

July 20, 2016 NBC News, Lead Rules Provide Only an 'Illusion of Safety,' Pediatricians Say
Lead standards are not protecting children and doctors need to do more to help prevent kids from getting contaminated in the first place, the top pediatricians' group said Monday

 June 15, 2016 Lead risk for 1 in 7 children in the US
     While overall lead poisoning in the US is declining, "hot spots" remain and Ohio is one of the states leading the leaders of the pack. 
     Washington Post reports "In one city after another, the tests showed startling numbers of children with unsafe blood lead levels: Poughkeepsie and Syracuse and Buffalo. Erie and Reading. Cleveland and Cincinnati." The article continues: "In certain regions of the country, including parts of New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, more than 1 in 7 children tested for elevated levels of lead in their blood. Minnesota had the highest overall rate of young children with disturbing blood lead levels, at 10.3 percent. That was followed by Pennsylvania (7.8 percent), Kentucky (7.1 percent), Ohio (7 percent) and Connecticut (6.7 percent)."
      When does news like this become a call to action for the General Assembly and the Governor? Right now the only state dollars spent on lead poisoning come from penalties levied by the ODH.
      RHINO would be remiss in failing to note a couple bright spots.