Paint companies agree to warn consumers of lead risks following agreement

Tuesday, May 13th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ As part of an agreement with dozens of attorneys general across the country, paint companies will soon be putting warning labels on their products alerting consumers to the danger of lead exposure during home renovations.

The agreement between the National Paint & Coating Association and 45 states was announced Monday. The District of Columbia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico also were included.

Paint manufacturers haven't made house paint with lead since 1978, but it is found in many older homes and buildings. The danger is that children will ingest or inhale lead paint dust stirred up during repainting and renovation of older homes.

In addition to new labels on paint cans, paint manufacturers also agreed to provide brochures to consumers and training courses on lead-safe renovation and repainting to homeowners, contractors, landlords and housing workers.

According to national figures from the Environmental Protection Agency, about 900,000 children under the age of 5 have elevated blood-lead levels. If not detected early, high levels of lead can cause damage to the brain and nervous system.

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly, who led the states' negotiations with top paint manufacturers, said the settlement is ``a landmark agreement with the paint industry and it addresses a serious problem.''

``Lead exposure continues to be a health hazard to children and that includes lead dust. There's a proper way to remove it. If you don't do it properly, it presents a serious health risk,'' he said.

But the attorney general in Rhode Island, the first state to sue former lead paint manufacturers for lead poisoning in children, called the agreement an ``empty gesture.''

``It's too little, too late,'' Attorney General Patrick Lynch said Monday. ``This agreement fails to address the full extent of the dangers of lead paint and, perhaps purposefully, it comes as we are taking steps to retry our case against the lead pigment manufacturers.''

The agreement includes a 19-month interim product sticker program _ beginning Sept. 30, 2003 _ and permanent product labeling that would warn consumers of possible exposure to lead dust during the renovation of older buildings.