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NPCA responds to lead-poisoning lawsuit filed by Ohio Attorney General Dann

By Tim Wright

Published April 9, 2007
The National Paint and Coatings Association, Inc. (NPCA), released a statement strongly opposing the decision by Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann to sue ten companies over the issue of lead poisoning. Instead of pursuing current, effective measures that have made major progress in eliminating childhood lead poisoning, the attorney general has, with less than three months in office, chosen to pursue unfounded and ill-conceived litigation, according to the NPCA.

The coatings industry has a long history of being proactive in the campaign to eliminate childhood lead poisoning. Over 50 years ago, in 1954, the association and its members established, in cooperation with the American Academy of Pediatrics, a consensus standard that eliminated the use of lead in consumer house paints and on articles accessible to children. In 1971, the industry testified in favor of the first federal standard on the use of lead in paint as part of the Federal Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act passed by Congress.  Shortly thereafter, the industry supported the eventual ban of lead in consumer paints by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1978.

For decades — going back to the 1960s — as the use of lead in paint declined, the industry engaged in constant public outreach efforts to alert the public to the dangers of lead exposure and the risk of childhood lead poisoning. Hundreds of thousands of safety brochures and posters have been provided, free of charge, to community health centers and lead-poisoning prevention programs all over the country.

As new evidence on health risks associated with childhood lead exposure was discovered, NPCA, on behalf of the paint industry, participated in two Presidential Task Forces (under George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton) seeking to advance public awareness and extend the knowledge of targeted, feasible and effective lead hazard control strategies. These efforts helped advance the understanding that the mere presence of lead-based paint does not constitute a hazard, and led to a shift in government-led practices toward correcting deteriorated paint conditions brought about by deferred or careless maintenance practices.

In 2003, NPCA, on behalf of the paint industry, entered into a landmark, cooperative agreement with 50 state attorneys general — from 46 states (including Ohio), Washington, D.C., and three territories — to increase public awareness of lead-based paint hazards and to train renovation and remodeling contractors (including painting contractors) to safely work with old, lead-based paint. These efforts under this agreement, which continue to this date, resulted in:

• New product labeling on over 2 billion containers to alert consumers and contractors to the potential dangers of deteriorated lead-based paint and provide lead-safe work practice instructions (including the toll-free EPA Lead Hotline number and website);

•The distribution of over 4 million EPA lead hazard awareness brochures (in English and Spanish) at paint retail point-of-sale locations;

•Ongoing free classroom training sessions (using the government-approved curriculum, with classes in English and Spanish) that have reached over 12,000 individuals throughout the country (in all 50 states) on lead-safe work practices for renovation and remodeling (attendees include contractors, housing officials, property managers, private homeowners and many others).   

Finally, NPCA, on behalf of its members, continues to focus on a number of ongoing efforts by government agencies at all levels and in Congress to refine and bolster effective policy measures that work toward the elimination of childhood lead poisoning by the year 2010.  NPCA feels strongly that, rather than bringing costly, time-consuming litigation, the actions described above — which have been supported by public health experts from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as allied state and local agencies — remain the best hope for achieving that goal.

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