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Lead Paint Poisoning
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Labels Will Warn of Lead In Old Paint

Industry agrees to move as part of pact with states

May 14, 2003 | AP

Starting this fall, paint manufacturers across the country will follow in the footsteps of cigarette makers by placing warning labels on their products cautioning consumers that scraping old paint can create toxic lead dust.

The labels will be placed on the tops and sides of cans reading in part: "WARNING! If you scrape, sand or remove old paint you may release lead dust. LEAD IS TOXIC."

The labels are required under an agreement reached this week by the National Paint and Coatings Association and attorneys general from 46 states, including Michigan. The move is designed to combat lead poisoning, widely cited as the biggest environmental threat facing U.S. children.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox cited a Free Press series on lead poisoning that ran in January in announcing the agreement Tuesday. He called the new plan "a big step toward reducing the public health risks associated with lead paint."

Said Tom Graves, vice president and general counsel to the paint association, "It's a substantial commitment, and we're happy to be in partnership with so many attorneys general who think of this as a model for how to accomplish things without being antagonistic."

Glenn Brown, cochair of a group of activists called the Michigan Lead Partnership, called the agreement a good move forward.

About 22,000 Michigan children are estimated to have lead poisoning, which can hinder brain development and create behavioral problems.

A major source of lead in the environment is dust from paint in homes built before 1978 that's when paint manufacturers stopped adding lead to paint, which had been done to make their products last longer.

Under the agreement, besides the warning labels, paint manufacturers also will pay for hundreds of educational seminars nationwide on safe renovation practices. The seminars will be free to the public and aimed at home owners, contractors, landlords and housing workers.

In addition, the paint industry has promised to arrange discounts on safety equipment such as masks and special vacuum cleaners that pick up small lead particles. The paint industry and lawmakers took five months to negotiate the landmark, $200-million plan.

Companies that years ago participated in the manufacture of leaded paint are facing numerous class-action lawsuits around the country -- none in Michigan. States and cities are suing the manufacturers for creating a public nuisance by continuing to put lead in their products, long after the dangers of the metal were known.

This week's agreement does not preclude future lawsuits, but it may head some off.

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