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Ohio AG Sues Paint Makers for "Public Nuisance":

On Monday, new Ohio attorney general Marc Dann filed suit against several paint manufacturers alleging that they contributed to a "public nuisance" by manufacturing lead paint decades ago. (See also here.) Lead paint remains in many older homes where it can pose a risk to children if not properly contained or remediated. RightAngleBlog has collected some responses to the suit here.

Chucklepants (mail):
isn't it amazing that people disregard the fact that every single person who grew up in any building built before about 1975, grew up in an enviroment covered with lead paint. That means the VAST majority of Americans.

Was there any dire consequence? Nope.

Just more lawyer hokum to drum up money.

By the way, for those who don't know, the lead did 2 things. It add opacity to the oil based paints and helped speed drying.
4.7.2007 4:46pm
frankcross (mail):
I have no idea about the merits of the lawsuit under the state's law, but there's little doubt about the brain damage associated with lead exposure. Which is why:

Over 50 years ago, in 1954, the association and its members established, in cooperation with the American Academy of Pediatrics, a consensus standard which 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 (CPSC) in 1978.

It's not a significant risk so long as the paint is well maintained. But in older houses with flaking paint, there's a pretty clear risk, which the industry itself recognized.
4.7.2007 6:34pm
Montie (mail):
As I understand it, Sherwin-Williams took the lead out of their paint voluntarily long before they were required to do so. So, here we have a company doing the "right" thing long before they were required to do so. (In contrast, governments dragged their feet in replacing lead pipes in public water systems.) Yet, Sherwin-Williams is sued...at a time when Ohio can ill-afford to be considered unfriendly to business.

I am an Ohio native (but no longer a resident), and I am forever amazed at Ohioans ability to shoot themselves in the foot.
4.7.2007 6:37pm
Robert Schwartz (mail):
I am forever amazed at Ohioans ability to shoot themselves in the foot.


Don't be amazed. they have been doing it for years. That is why Ohio is lagging in income and employment and leading in foreclosures and job losses.

The good news is that the Seven Potted Geraniums (a/k/a the Ohio Supreme Court) are a pretty conservative bunch. This case may not go very far.

Bob Taft was an idiot, but Strickland and Dann don't seem to have a clue.
4.7.2007 6:51pm
subpatre (mail):
One consequence of lead-free paints —all non-hazardous paints— is the enormous increase in toxic and health-threatening molds in buildings. For this reason alone, red lead is still used in certain marine undercoatings.

Maybe someone can sue the Attorney General for that office's participation in the eugenic practice of sterilizing (neutering) deaf children —and other 'defectives' such as orphans, tramps, the homeless and paupers — during the same time period that paint was leaded. The shame is that for either case, it's the people of Ohio who will pay the settlement; win, lose, or draw.
4.7.2007 8:39pm
Truth Seeker:
(In contrast, governments dragged their feet in replacing lead pipes in public water systems.)

The house I grew up in for the first 14 years had a water pipe to the building made of solid lead, all the old houses in Chicago did. Yet my school IQ tests were always ultra high. How can they say lead affects intelligence of children? Now they don't even allow lead joints in copper pipes. In those days it was solid lead pipes.
4.7.2007 9:54pm
Lev:

(In contrast, governments dragged their feet in replacing lead pipes in public water systems.)


If memory serves, either or both of Washington DC and Boston were discovered, in this century, to still have lots of municipal water supply distribution pipes made of lead.
4.7.2007 11:09pm
Montie (mail):

If memory serves, either or both of Washington DC and Boston were discovered, in this century, to still have lots of municipal water supply distribution pipes made of lead.


All hail sovereign immunity!
4.8.2007 12:25am
Montie (mail):

Strickland and Dann don't seem to have a clue.


I don't know about that. Sadly, I suspect they know exactly what they are doing.
4.8.2007 12:36am
ReaderY:
One reason for statutes of limitation and repose, and for Ex Post Facto laws, is to prevent the fundamental unfairness that happens when people are judged by the knowledge and standards of years and generations after their acts. Doubtless historians will often be able to identify vague inklings that years later one think should obviously have been clear warnings and which might appear to later generations to be smoking guns. Hindsight always seems 20-20.
4.8.2007 2:12am
markm (mail):
Truth Seeker: Lead doesn't dissolve in water, unless it's acidic. So as long as the water is good quality otherwise, lead pipes are pretty safe - which is why the Romans and other civilizations survived thousands of years of water systems lined with lead. Still, I'd rather replace them and know that even if the water does get acidified somehow, it won't pick up a cumulative poison from the piping. We're a wealthy industrial society and can easily afford such precautions. The builders of water systems in earlier times no doubt also knew that lead could be poisonous, but these societies were far poorer, and lead pipes were cheap; a water system that delivered good water with a slight risk of lead poisoning was greatly preferable to the alternative, which was no water system at all, and people catching typhoid fever, cholera, etc., from river water or from wells that were too close to wherever sewage was dumped.

OTOH, lead oxide in paint chips certainly will dissolve in stomach acid, and it tastes sweet so small children are likely to eat peeling paint. Because of that, children do turn up now and then with excessive lead absorbed into their tissues, and they are at substantial risk of brain damage. I'm not sure how long this risk has been understood, but at any rate three things have to happen before kids can eat lead paint:

1) Paint companies put lead in the paint, because it greatly improves the quality of oil-based paint, reducing both labor costs and paint usage for painting and repainting.

2) Building owners allow the paint to deteriorate until it is peeling from the walls.

3) Parents don't supervise their children closely enough.

It doesn't seem to me that this was mostly the paint companies' fault. Remember, alternatives were limited until polymer-based paints were introduced in the 1970's, and the better coverage and longer life of lead paint as compared to other oil paints could well make the difference between keeping a building painted and not being able to afford it...
4.8.2007 8:26pm
TokyoTom (mail):
Are public nuisance suits generally a public nuisance, because they are used by AGs for political purposes, or do they serve legitimate needs by creating a remedy when individual claims are difficult to pursue?

Since states do have to be concerned about the effects of such actions on local jobs, etc. and competitiion with other states, one would expect to see suits targeting local firms to be relatively rare.

In any case, my understanding is that libertarian theory much favors the use of courts to seek direct damages from tortfeasors as a remedy, rather than turning to local, state and federal governments as a political battleground that tends to favor powerful special interests and to bloat government.
4.9.2007 11:15am