Before all eyes were on Flint, Mich., a decade ago Rhode Island was working to combat its own lead poisoning crisis. In 2006, Rhode Island became the first state to sue paint manufacturers, claiming that paint companies like Sherwin-Williams were making and selling lead paint for more than 30 years and covering up the associated health risks.
At the time, up to 80% of homes in Rhode Island contained lurking lead poisoning. While the Rhode Island initially won its court case, two years later the state’s highest court overturned the verdict, citing that the paint industry couldn’t be held responsible and that the burden fell upon landlords.
Associated Press reporter Matt O’Brien looks into Rhode Island’s longstanding battle with the paint industry and the resources the state is using to combat the consequences of lead paint exposure.
"In 1999, when Rhode Island first sued, more than 2,300 children under 6 years old, nearly 7 percent of all those tested in the state, were found to have dangerously elevated levels of lead , according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By 2014, that number had dropped to 217, just under 1 percent of all the children tested statewide — but still 40 percent above the national rate. Education campaigns helped, health experts say, as did government subsidies for remediation and laws that put more responsibility on landlords. But blood tests still find more than 1,000 new cases each year of children with elevated levels."