Cases

Lead Poisoning

No parent wants to discover that their child’s learning delay or behavioral disorders are due to an entirely preventable, yet often unknown, cause: lead poisoning.

Sadly, lead poisoning is one of the most common health problems impacting American children today, affecting almost a quarter of children in the U.S. under the age of six as of 2006. However, by eliminating persistent sources of the mineral, such as lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in and around older homes, we can help take strides toward stopping this frightening health hazard.

Our Experience in Lead Poisoning Cases

Motley Rice’s work related to lead poisoning involves both trying to prevent lead poisoning from happening in communities and homes, and also representing people whose health has already been negatively affected by lead poisoning.

Our attorneys have also litigated lead poisoning cases on behalf of government entities against the lead paint industry, including in California, Rhode Island and New York.

Due to our experience and knowledge, we also working with co-counsel to fight for people poisoned by lead in Wisconsin in more than 170 cases. These cases were reactivated in July 2014 when a court of appeals overturned a Wisconsin federal judge’s previous ruling, making it possible for people suffering from lead poisoning to pursue the makers of harmful white lead carbonate for negligence and strict liability.

We are proud of our longstanding relationships with lead paint researchers, scientists and doctors who support efforts to help victims of childhood lead poisoning and prevent future harm.

Lead Poisoning Case: People of California v. Atlantic Richfield et al

For 14 years, Motley Rice attorneys and co-counsel worked to hold a number of paint companies, including ConAgra Grocery Products Company, NL Industries and the Sherwin-Williams Company, responsible for concealing the dangers of lead and actively promoting lead paint for use in homes, despite knowing that it was highly toxic. The purpose of the litigation is to prevent lead poisoning from happening in homes and other buildings in 10 California cities and counties.

While defendants argued that they were not aware of the harmful effects of lead when they promoted their lead-based paints, the plaintiffs pointed out that in 1900, paint giant Sherwin-Williams called lead a “deadly cumulative poison” and stated that the more lead put into paint, the more children that would be injured; yet they continued to sell lead for use in paint for more than 70 years.

In January 2014, the honorable Judge James P. Kleinberg finalized his decision for the plaintiffs in People of California v. Atlantic Richfield et al, ruling that “[t]he Defendants against whom judgment is entered, jointly and severally, shall pay to the State of California $1,150,000,000 (One Billion One Hundred Fifty Million Dollars) into a specifically designated, dedicated, and restricted abatement fund,” to be administered by the State of California’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch .

The Court’s decision would make it possible to remove paint from all homes in the participating California municipalities that meet the criteria of the abatement. This case is currently under appeal in California.

The Harmful Effects of Childhood Lead Poisoning

There is no safe level of lead in the blood. For children, even small amounts of the mineral can cause persistent cognitive damage and at higher levels, and “can cause multiple and irreversible health problems, which include learning disabilities, attention-deficit disorder (ADHD), mental retardation, growth stunting, seizures, coma or, at high levels, death.”

Even though lead has been banned from paint products since 1978, homes built before that time are often still likely to contain the harmful substance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than four million residences containing lead paint are home to one or more children under the age of six.

As these homes age, the issue of deterioration becomes a major concern. Lead paint chips, flecks and dust can become dislodged and may be ingested by young children. The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) estimates that one gram of lead dust—about the contents of a sugar packet—spread evenly through 100 rooms, each 10 feet by 10 feet, can leave dust levels of more than twice the federal standard for a hazardous level of lead on floors.

Children diagnosed with lead poisoning often suffer from:

  • anemia 
  • behavioral disorders 
  • hearing loss 
  • hyperactivity or attention deficit disorder 
  • learning disabilities 
  • mental retardation
  • neurological and renal damage 
  • speech delay 
  • stunted growth 

The Dangers of Adult Lead Exposure

Lead exposure can also pose serious dangers to pregnant women and industrial workers. Exposure to battery plants and lead smelters that use lead in their processing may also expose workers and children to dangerous levels of lead. Painters and workers with occupations involving welding, soldering, the chemical industry, foundries, gasoline refineries and the copper industry may bring dust home from their workplaces, resulting in secondhand exposure and poisoning to children.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “approximately 804,000 workers in general industry and an additional 838,000 workers in construction are potentially exposed to lead.”

Lead Poisoning Resources

Learn more about the impacts and prevention of lead poisoning: