Lead contained in paint and gasoline is banned in the U.S., but it persists in the environment in house dust and paint chips, particularly in poorer neighborhoods. Lead-based paints were commonly used in the 1950s and ’60s. According to the Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, 30 million U.S. homes built before 1960 still have lead in them. In 1978, Congress banned the use of lead paints.
Paint makers have faced a number of lawsuits over lead paint since 1989. Paint companies that produced lead-based paint in the past include Benjamin Moore & Co., Sherwin-Williams Co., Atlantic Richfield Co., NL Industries Inc., E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., and Glidden Co. Defendants in such cases have banded together to defend suits against the industry. In response to lawsuits and other accusations, paint manufacturers have argued that, unlike tobacco companies, they never deceived anyone. The industry says it funded the research into the dangers of lead paint and then, after the health hazard was proven, voluntarily pulled lead paint off the market nearly 50 years ago. Of the lawsuits that have been resolved, the former manufacturers have not lost or settled a single case. To date manufacturer have had significant success avoiding liability, however, increased scrutiny may make it possible for you to recover. Suits against landlords, however, have been more successful. Landlords who do not maintain their properties by removing lead-based paint, or fail to cover it with a new coat of lead-free paint or wallpaper can be held liable.
States have now primarily taken the lead in lead paint litigation against former lead-based paint manufacturers. Rhode Island was the first state to file a lawsuit holding the paint companies responsible for creating hazards that poison thousands of children. The suit is being closely watched by the industry and by many other states looking for money to help clean up housing that creates hazards due to lead.