13-year lawsuit over lead paint wraps up in San Jose

SAN JOSE, Calif.

The use of lead-based paint was banned in 1978, but the risk remains in older homes and buildings. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects more than a half-million children may have unhealthy levels of lead.

The paint industry says it didn't know for decades that lead in paint was dangerous. When it did, it paid fees to support education and prevention programs. However, five companies are being sued by three cities and seven counties that say that isn't enough.

"They don't remove the lead paint from homes, so until you remove the lead paint from homes, the children are still going to get poisoned, and that is the remedy that we're seeking in this lawsuit," said Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Danny Chou.

Oakland, San Francisco and the Bay Area counties of Santa Clara, Alameda, San Mateo and Solano are using the state's public nuisance law to back its lawsuit. However, the former Iowa attorney general, who speaks on behalf of the paint manufacturers, points out a similar strategy in other states has failed.

"Seven other state supreme courts have looked at this very same evidence, the same issues, and in every instance, sided with the manufacturers," said Bonnie J. Campbell, a manufacturers' spokesperson.

The lawsuit seeks over $1 billion to help remediate the hazard.

Santa Clara based Hazmat Doc has been testing for and addressing lead contamination for 20 years. Clean-up can be achieved by removing chipped surfaces and repainting, or more aggressive means.

"The repainting is a short-term remediation, and the encapsulation method of putting something over it is a long-term, and then of course there's always the component removal," said Lee Kafeyan, an environmental technician.

Closing arguments are scheduled for a week from Monday in San Jose. The judge has 90 days to render a decision.

FairWarning.org is a non-profit online investigative news organization focused on health and safety issues.

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