Lead Paint News Stories: Milwaukee and Sherwin-Williams Engaged in Legal Battle Over Lead Poisoning
When we hear about increased risk of lead poisoning in industrial cities, most of us think of old black and white photographs of the days before regulations and protections that were designed to keep workers and residents safe from things like heavy metals. However, what a lot of us forget is that it wasn't very long ago that companies were producing lead-heavy products, and that the public was readily using them every, single day. That's why in cities like Milwaukee, Wisconsin, New York and others, there is still a higher-than-average rate of lead poisoning among the population in general, but especially among their youngest generations.
That's why, according to Journal Sentinel, the city is engaged in a rather heated court battle with paint producer Sherwin-Williams over their contribution to the city's current condition.
Decades of Harmful Paint to Blame?
Milwaukee children have more than three times the national average level in their blood tests, and that is a serious problem. The city contends that peeling and flaking lead paint (which is often lurking in older homes, and which has been in place for decades) is largely to blame for this. The paint company, by contrast, argues that a majority of the blame should be laid on the lead pipes found throughout the city, and not on anything produced by their company over the years.
While there is no denying that lead exposure from any source is bad, the question currently being decided in Milwaukee seems to be one that is being faced all across the country; namely, which lead source do you try to grapple with first? Because while we've seen it's possible to prevent lead leaching into water, it is significantly more difficult to clean up lead-based paint. Not only that but lead paint can easily affect a huge area if it isn't properly controlled when it's being cleaned up. That process is neither cheap nor easy, which is one reason Sherwin-Williams is being taken to court for the money to help handle these costs.
Why was lead used in paint to begin with? The hazards of lead exposure and its effects on the body are understood by scientists and health officials today. However, it was an unfortunate journey to get to the understanding we have at the present. With the severe consequences lead can have on the body, it may seem foolish that lead was ever used in paints to begin with.
While it was never greatly understood, lead was somewhat known to have adverse effects on the body. It was used in things like face powders, mascaras, food seasonings, wine preservation, and even an informal birth control method in early times. It wasn't recognized as a poison, but it was being documented to the link of health problems like grey hair, dried-out skin, severe abdominal pain, and constipation. It was assumed as dangerous only if used in high amounts.
Focusing in on the use of lead in paint though; it had a variety of seemingly positive effects. Different lead compounds were added to paint to create various pigments. Some examples are the use of white lead to paint wooden surfaces in the home, or a vivid yellow could be created from lead chromate colored pigment. Lead was used to create pigment because it was highly opaque, meaning only a small amount was needed.
Lead wasn't just used for creating perfect shades. A heavy metal additive also made the paint more durable, more water resistant, and even decreased drying times.
Long term exposure in small amounts wasn't known to have adverse effects. After some time a "voluntary standard" was constructed to discourage too much lead exposure in short increments of time. However, we now have the research behind and the recognition of lead poisoning. Even small amounts are considered a health risk. It first became clear when it was shown to have adverse effects originating from kids' items produced with lead. This was especially detrimental when kids could have oral exposure and ingest the lead (chewing on toys or crib bars). It was then thought it could still be used in spaces like walls and cabinets safely due to the lesser risk of exposure.
However, children were still sustaining the effects of lead and being tested for lead in blood, with unfortunate results. This evolved into a better understanding of how paint chips and paint debris transfers. The new understanding brought on the banning of lead as a paint ingredient.
Due to lead being used in paint for some time, the issue with lead paint is still occurring to this day. Many people are still unaware of the exposure they or their children presently have. Lead has serious health consequences like developmental delays, abdominal pain, headaches, constipation, fatigue, behavioral/neurological changes, and could even present with no apparent symptoms at first, yet still be fatal. This is why the treatment of lead paint and professional, proper clean up and remediation is vital.
Childhood Lead Exposure Is Still Hurting People Decades Later
Lead poisoning is an extremely dangerous and very real problem that affects the lives of many people throughout the world, and unfortunately, is most commonly found in our homes, schools and other places where we should feel safest. Children often stand the risk of lead exposure from paint most of all, but lead particles can easily be ingested by anyone. However, lead exposure at an early age can be particularly dangerous, as it is the cause of many lasting and serious problems, from anemia, to learning disabilities, to so much more.
But, according to the EPA, there are scientific and technological solutions to solve this lead problem, and they are working with several other departments like Health and Human Services to find them. Together, these organizations are conducting research in many areas of the issue, from finding ways to reduce lead exposure, to researching exactly how to identify and control lead hazards. Scientific discoveries may have shown us the various health consequences our children face from lead poisoning, but now scientific discoveries are taking us down a road of combating and kicking this toxic substance to the curb. By working together to continue to solve this health crisis, we can turn it completely around, and advance toward a healthier, brighter future for children and everyone around the world.
So, what ever became of all the children affected by harmful levels of lead? As adults, are the millions of former lead-poisoned victims still dealing with the consequences of societal carelessness? A recent study initiated by some New Zealand professors carefully analyzed a large group of people who had been diagnosed with lead poisoning as young children; the conclusion revealed something shocking that reinforces the seriousness of proper lead management today.
The investigation was originally published on January 23, 2019 in an article called, "Association of Childhood Lead Exposure With Adult Personality Traits and Lifelong Mental Health". The research followed the lives of over 1000 children for over 30 years, 579 of which were lead-affected at a young age. Of the 579, even after the lead poisoning had been recognized and dealt with early in life, the impact continued to influence the minds, emotions, and behavior of the children well into middle-aged adulthood.
Learning from the Past
It is more important than ever to take lead poisoning seriously in our culture! Carelessness now can result in poor life outcomes, psychopathology, health problems, and even relationship problems for the next generation. Whether it's old paint that needs to be removed, or contaminated soil that needs to be cleaned, we can each play a valuable role in making this world a safer place for ourselves and our children.
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