Nearly one million children under the age of six in the U.S. have lead poisoning. Residential use of lead-based paint was banned in 1978. Of the millions of homes constructed before the ban, about 12.5 million contained lead-based paint. Elevated levels of lead in the blood can damage the neurological, cardiovascular, renal, reproductive and gastrointestinal systems, and the bones, and can cause death.
Lead-based paint is most often found in low-income housing, but can be found in any older home or building. Lead poisoning is much more common in children than in adults, and often goes undetected because the symptoms can indicate a wide variety of problems, and often do not appear at all until lead levels are dangerously high and damage has already occurred. Some common symptoms of lead poisoning include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
Very young children are at the highest risk for lead poisoning and the harm that it can cause for two reasons. They are more likely to ingest the lead in the first place, by putting things in their mouths, such as paint chips, and by simply touching their surroundings and then putting their hands in their mouths. Young children suffer more harm when they are exposed to lead. Lead poisoning impairs brain and neurological development, leading to permanent health problems and learning disabilities. Lead poisoning in children can cause:
- Neurological damage
- Learning disabilities
- Language and speech problems
- Hearing damage
- Behavioral problems
- Poor muscle coordination
- Decreased bone and muscle growth
- Damage to internal organs
Lead poisoning also causes serious health problems in adults. Complication experienced by adult victims of lead poisoning can include:
- Digestive problems and severe abdominal pain
- High blood pressure
- Neurological disorders
- Memory loss
- Inability to concentrate
- Muscle and joint pain
- Damage to the reproductive system
One of the biggest difficulties facing victims of lead poisoning caused by lead-based paint is determining who is responsible. Landlords, hospitals, schools and other government entities are all potentially responsible for the exposure, but in most cases the paint manufacturer should be held responsible either alone or in addition to other parties. Determining which brand of paint was used, sometimes more than 50 years ago, is rarely possible. In the past, many cases have been thrown out because the responsible party could not be named, and therefore there was no one to sue. This left victims with no recourse, and no compensation to help pay for medical bills, special education, and the other potential life-long costs created by lead poisoning.
When products cause harm, but the harm cannot be specifically traced from the victim to a single manufacturer, market-share liability can be the means to compensation. Market-share liability holds all manufacturers responsible for harm in direct proportion to their share of the market for the product.
Cities, counties and school districts are finding some success in suing paint manufacturers for creating a public nuisance. Recently in Rhode Island three paint manufacturers were ordered to pay for cleaning up more than 200,000 contaminated homes. Cases in several other states are seeing similar favor for victims.
Even though lead-based paint has been banned for nearly thirty years, lead poisoning is still a very real problem, with disastrous health consequences. If you or a loved one has been harmed or killed by lead poisoning, please contact personal injury attorneys who are experienced in lead paint poisoning lawsuits. One law firm that handles lead poisoning lawsuits is Silberstein, Awad & Miklos in New York.