Statement by Bonnie J. Campbell on Behalf of Defendants in People of the State
California, et al. v. Atlantic Richfield Company, et al.
SAN JOSE, Calif., July 15, 2013
SAN JOSE, Calif., July 15, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following may
be attributed to Bonnie J. Campbell, spokesperson for the defendants in the
California litigation.Campbell is the former Attorney General of Iowa and led
the U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women during the
In People of the State California, et al. v. Atlantic Richfield Company, et
al., set to go to trial July 15, 2013, ten California cities and counties ask
the court to declare that lead paint in or on privately owned residential
buildings within their jurisdictions is a public nuisance that requires
extensive abatement. A string of judicial decisions around the country and the
legal principles cited in these rulings, however, confirms that this public
nuisance lawsuit is without factual or legal merit.
This lawsuit is puzzling on numerous fronts.There is no public nuisance.
California's Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, including its
emphasis on education and maintenance, is a public health success story that
has resulted in a dramatic reduction in blood lead levels in California's
Blood lead levels are at historic lows in California and are lower than
national averages. Regulatory efforts and prevention programs – programs
funded in part by defendants in the lawsuit – have worked and help to continue
to drive blood lead levels in California towards zero.
Plaintiffs in this case claim that defendants promoted the use of white lead
pigments in residential paint during the first half of the last century
knowing it would create the alleged public nuisance today. This is wholly
untrue, as the historical record shows. When interior lead-based paint was
made in the early decades of the 20th century, it was a legal product in great
demand because it was washable and durable, and the currently reported risks
to children were unknown and unknowable.
Knowledge of its risks evolved over a century and changed dramatically after
1970. Perhaps the best way to assess what was understood is to examine the
views expressed contemporaneously by public health officials who were on the
front lines in treating lead exposure and wrote about their findings in widely
circulated public journals. The fact is, armed with all that was known about
risks from lead paint, no public health agency advised consumers not to use
lead-based paint in homes until 1951, when the Baltimore Health Department
(assisted by funding from the lead industry) confirmed a new source of lead
risk – peeling and chipping lead paint in deteriorated inner-city housing. In
response to this newly suspected risk, the companies did the right thing.
Industry funded the no-strings-attached research that confirmed the risk. The
companies then voluntarily ceased marketing lead-based interior paint decades
ahead of federal action.
Current risks were not understood until very recently.In the early 1960s,
public health officials set a blood lead "level of concern" at a level six
times higher than the level later established in 1991. And, as recently as the
early 1970s, at a time when it was still considered normal for children to
consume some lead, the American Academy of Pediatricians in 1972 adopted a
child per day lead consumption standard that, with the benefit of today's
knowledge, is now considered dangerous.
This litigation is puzzling because California's own data show that lead-based
paint is not today contributing to community-wide blood lead levels. It's
puzzling as well because certain cities and counties are pursuing this action
against former manufacturers when those cities and counties have stated that
they have no or very few cases of children's ingestion of lead requiring
intervention, and have failed to use all of the funds allocated to them for
elevated blood lead level prevention programs. Further, the plaintiffs'
argument is at odds with public health officials in California, including
plaintiff county and city health officials, many of whom have said they were
never even consulted before the lawsuit was filed.
Just what led to the California suit being filed? Since 1987, trial lawyers
have recruited plaintiffs in scores of lawsuits against former manufacturers
of lead pigment or paint. Initially, plaintiffs asserted negligence and
product liability claims. But, when these claims were rejected by the court,
plaintiffs' attorneys switched course and began filing public nuisance claims
against the former manufacturers. Eight public nuisance claims resulted.
Claims in seven other states have either been voluntarily dismissed or
rejected by the courts or juries. That leaves just one remaining public
nuisance case -- the California case.
The remedy sought by the plaintiffs – extensive abatement of lead paint – is
unnecessary. There is no public nuisance or need for extensive abatement. Both
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California's Department of Health
Care Servicers say that lead paint, if well maintained and intact, typically
poses no public health risk. Further, abating intact lead paint can be
dangerous because it disrupts paint that is otherwise posing no risk, and
creates lead dust accessible to children. The remedy is contrary to
established laws and policies, and at odds with every federal statute,
California law and local ordinance applicable to lead. California explicitly
puts the obligations on landlords to prevent or abate lead-based paint
hazards. The state does not require abatement of well-maintained, intact
lead-based paint on any surface.
Tellingly, the plaintiffs' suit seeks extensive abatement of lead paint,
including removal and replacement of all doors and windows with lead paint,
declaring it a public nuisance, yet specifically exempts their own public
buildings, including schools, their lead water pipes, roads, incinerators, and
parks from the requirement for abatement.
For more information, please visit www.leadlawsuits.com.
SOURCE Bonnie J. Campbell
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