It’s the end to a lawsuit that’s dragged on for nearly 20 years.
A collection of some of the nation’s biggest former suppliers of lead paint have agreed to pay out hundreds of millions to several California counties.
According to CBS News, the settlement is being hailed as a major victory for Santa Clara, San Francisco, Alameda and San Mateo counties. It was an end decades in the making, with complaints against the paint companies first filed in 2000.
“What came out at trial while they were busy marketing lead paint, they knew it was toxic and harmful to our community,” Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams said.
The agreement, says CBS San Francisco, will require hefty-payouts from Sherwin Williams, Conagra and NL Industries. Together, they’re expected to pay out $305 million. But that money won’t be going into county coffers—instead, it’ll be used to remove and abate lead paint in an assortment of California counties and cities.
However, the total pay-out is far smaller than initially hoped. A trial judgment from 2014 had ordered the companies to pay upwards of $1 billion, but that amount was halved three years later.
Reuters notes that the lawsuit was fraught with risk. After the defendants had exhausted all their appeals, they threatened to sue individual homeowners who’d received help removing lead paint, accusing them of poor maintenance and neglect.
Williams said the settlement will come as a relief to the thousands of people who had to remove the contaminated paint by themselves or still haven’t been able to.
“This landmark settlement will allow thousands of homes to be remediated, and as a result current and future generations of California children will no longer face the threat of lead poisoning,” Williams said.
Lead paint, says CBS, can seriously impact children’s growth. If eaten, lead-containing paint, peelings and dust can stun kids’ neurophysiological development.
For children, lead poisoning can curb intellectual growth—it’s associated with lower IQs and learning disabilities. And while it’s yet to be proven, there’s evidence to suggest that it can also spur violent behavior later in life.
Christopher Luengo, president of C.B. Construction, told CBS San Francisco that he wouldn’t want his kids to live in an affected house.
“If I had young children and I knew conditions in a home were dirty, dusty and in bad condition, I wouldn’t want them there at all,” Luengo said. “I would want things cleaned up and done properly prior to me living in the house.”
It’s an obvious conclusion, but one that’s evaded thousands of Californians for decades. The settlement claims that there are some 6.1-million homes in the counties covered by the suit that could use remediation or extensive clean-up.
“Many people can’t afford the cost of lead paint testing, remediation, cleanup,” Williams said. “And this will provide a resource to the community more broadly.”