Coverage of the lead paint lawsuits and the hefty fines being required by Judge James Kleinberg in California have made big headlines. $1.1 billion is a lot of money.

On Friday, Judge Kleinberg issued his final ruling and the amount of the awards had one up $50 million to $1.15 billion. We also learned last week that Los Angeles County is going to be awarded $632 million of the total–over half of the money being paid by three paint manufacturers: NL Industries, ConAgra and Sherwin-Williams. Defendants Atlantic Richfield and DuPont were dismissed from the suit.

The best part of this landmark–and unusual–ruling, of course, is that California families, even those with low incomes who live in older homes, will be able to make those homes safe for children, safe for pregnant women, safe to sell. Safe. The State of California will make it possible for all its citizens to grow and develop without fear of the health problems which come from exposure to lead (from the Environmental Protection Agency):

  • Permanent damage to the brain and nervous system, leading to behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, and hearing problems
  • Slowed growth
  • Anemia
  • In rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death
  • During pregnancy, lead is released from bones as maternal calcium is used to help form the bones of the fetus.
  • Lead can also be circulated from the mother’s blood stream through the placenta to the fetus.
  • Miscarriage
  • Reduced growth of the fetus and premature birth
  • Lead can also be transmitted through breast milk
  • Nervous system effects in adults
  • Cardiovascular effects, in increased blood pressure and incidence of hypertension
  • Decreased kidney function
  • Reproductive problems (in both men and women)

Enough? We think so. If you live in a home built before 1978, you might have lead paint. Lead dust can enter your environment when you open doors or windows. The weather is awfully good for January–our windows are open. How about yours?