Assemblymember Quirk Joins Colleagues in Introducing Sweeping Legislative Reform to Clean up Toxic Paint

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Sacramento, CA – Advocates for children, the environment and social justice joined Assemblymembers Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles), David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley), and Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara) to unveil a package of bills that will safeguard children from the health consequences of toxic lead and protect homeowners from threats of frivolous lawsuits by giant paint corporations.

 

Today’s announcement by Assemblymember Quirk and others comes after a state appellate court upheld the key legal ruling in People v. ConAgra Grocery Products (2017), which found that three paint manufacturers created a widespread public nuisance by marketing and selling lead paint when dangers of lead exposure were well known.  

 

California listed lead as a substance that can cause reproductive damage and birth defects under Proposition 65 in 1987.  That same year, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of lead-based paint.

The court found three companies – Sherwin Williams, Con Agra, and NL Products – all had “actual knowledge of the hazards of lead paint, including childhood lead poisoning.” But that didn’t stop them from marketing lead paint for use in California homes. In fact, plaintiffs, that included Alameda County, pointed to a 1937 document from the companies’ own doctors showing that lead-based paint could lead to lead poisoning.

 

Lead has multiple toxic effects on the human body. This includes brain and kidney damage, infertility and serious developmental challenges in children.

 

“The court ruling affirmed that these corporations had actual knowledge that their products were poisoning babies at the very same time they were promoting them, placing them in the same infamous company as Big Tobacco when it comes to immorality,” said Ed Howard, Senior Counsel for the Children’s Advocacy Institute. “The fact that these corporate behemoths are now trying to escape responsibility for their poisoning of babies shows they haven't changed and adds a new layer of dishonor to their disgrace."

 

Bill Allayaud, Director of Government Affairs for the Environmental Working Group added, "The federal Centers for Disease Control has categorically stated — there is no safe level of lead, which is why we must safeguard pregnant women and children from everyday exposure.  And, just last week, newly published research demonstrated that adults remain at risk from premature death due cardiovascular disease causes by historic lead exposure.”

“After putting poison in California homes, schools, and public places for decades, the paint giants are trying to hide behind er layer of lies. The California Legislature must pick up where the courts left off, and pass this crucial package of bills to protect California children and homeowners,” said Anya Lawler, advocate for Western Center and Law and Poverty. “As advocates for the communities hurt most by poison paint, Western Center on Law and Poverty calls on legislators to demand accountability for the damage these toxic paint companies have done to California.”

 

“It took over a decade of litigation for the courts to reach a careful and well thought out decision about the role the paint industry played in knowingly selling poisonous paint. It was poisonous because it contained lead. There is no safe exposure to lead. Now, industry wants to circumvent the court ruling with an initiative,” explained Assemblymember Quirk. “AB 3009 holds them accountable. Specifically, this bill would enact a fee on paint manufacturers for all paint sold in California. The money from the fee would be used to clean up lead paint that has contaminated homes throughout California. AB 3009 goes into effect only if the initiative that the paint industry is sponsoring passes.”