The Governing Council of the American Public Health Association (APHA)
on November 12, 1997 unanimously adopted a policy statement urging
lawsuits against the manufacturers of products that contain lead and
against the lead manufacturers themselves.[*] APHA is a professional
society founded in 1872 representing all disciplines and specialties in
APHA is urging lawsuits against manufacturers and users to raise funds
to protect the nation's children from toxic lead. Under the influence
of the lead corporations, the U.S. Congress has dragged its feet on
lead abatement for 50 years (see REHW #294, #376), refusing to provide
adequate funding to solve this problem, which continues to reduce the
mental capacity of millions of American children. In keeping with the
well-established principle that "the polluter shall pay," the APHA is
urging that lawsuits be brought by governments, individuals, and
others, seeking monetary compensation for the damages knowingly caused
by the producers and users of lead.
Clearly, this is an important recommendation, coming, as it does, from
the heart of the American public health establishment. Perhaps, by
extension, in future years the APHA will urge lawsuits against the
manufacturers and users of PCBs, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), mercury,
cadmium and other persistent pollutants that are demonstrably poisoning
the world's wildlife and human populations.
Here we present the APHA's policy statement verbatim:
9704: Responsibilities of the Lead Pigment Industry and Others to
Support Efforts to Address the National Child Lead Poisoning Problem
The American Public Health Association,
Noting that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers
lead poisoning to be one of the most common and serious environmental
diseases in young children in the U.S., completely preventable; and
Noting that early and recent research has found neurodevelopmental
delays in children at increasingly lower levels of lead exposure;[2-12]
Recognizing that 4.4% of children aged 1-5 years have blood lead levels
above 10 mcg/dl [micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood; a deciliter
is a tenth of a liter and a microgram is a millionth of a gram];
Noting that children who live in poorly maintained, older housing are
at disproportionate risk of being lead-poisoned;[1,13,14] and
Noting that the single most important source of lead poisoning in
children in the U.S. is lead paint;[1,14] and
Noting that over 50 million housing units in the U.S. have lead paint;
Noting that the cost of abating the nation's residential lead paint
hazards and treating the short-and long-term effects of lead poisoning
is many billions of dollars, and that there is no source to fund
abatement efforts on a consistent, large-scale and long-term basis,
which means that the public health problem will remain fundamentally
Understanding that lead paint was recognized as a source of lead
poisoning in young children as early as 1904; and
Being aware that scores of articles on child lead paint poisoning were
published in medical and scientific journals between 1904 and 1950;
Noting that the major lead paint and lead pigment manufacturers became
well aware of the dangers of lead paint to children in the early 1900s,
yet continued to sell lead paint well beyond 1950; and
Understanding that lead pigment manufacturers, despite the knowledge of
the hazards, continued campaigns to promote and increase the sale of
lead-based paint and minimize the public and governmental knowledge of
the hazards;[17,19] and
Recalling that the principle of "polluter pays" is well-established in
cases of environmental damage and public health problems, some examples
being: tobacco (taxes, state government law suits);[20-23] asbestos
(governmental and private law suits); Superfund (trust fund,
governmental law suits); Florida Everglades pollution from sugar
production (state constitutional amendment requiring that the polluter
Noting that over the 1920-1936 period alone, the lead pigment industry
sold over $455 million (in 1920-1936 dollars) worth of white lead
Noting that the largest manufacturers of lead pigment in this century,
or their successors, are still in business as profitable companies
(combined net assets in 1995 of approximately $30 billion)[29,30] and
have not been held financially accountable for the damage caused by
their products; and
Recalling that there are precedents (such as the cases of asbestos,
cigarettes,[20-23] Superfund) for governments suing polluting
companies to recover damages; and that doing so in the case of lead
paint poisoning could help increase public visibility of the issue; and
that doing so may help discourage corporations from engaging in future
irresponsible behavior that damages the environment or the public
Recognizing that residential lead-based paint abatement has been found
overall to be safe and effective in reducing children's exposure to
lead,[31-34] despite some conflicting data;[35,36]
Noting that data are lacking on the optimal methods of lead paint
abatement to maximize safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness;
Recognizing that HUD-proposed standards and EPA guidance levels for
lead in dust and soil do not adequately protect children from sub-
clinical lead toxicity. In fact, these standards and guidance levels
are 4-to 10-fold higher than levels estimated to be associated with 10%
of children having a blood lead level in excess of 10 mcg/dl.
Further recognizing that other studies indicate that dust lead levels
considerably lower than 100 mcg/dl [sic] on floors are inadequate to
protect children from undue lead exposure;[38,39] therefore
1. Supports efforts to increase the resources devoted to lead
abatement, reduction of lead hazards in housing, and community-based
prevention and health education;
2. Supports efforts to raise such resources through a variety of means
including litigation against manufacturers of products that contain
lead (such as lead manufacturers), legislation, negotiation, and fees;
3. Urges the federal government to pass legislation establishing a tax
on the production of lead to be used for a trust fund for removing lead
paint hazards in low-income housing and for community-based prevention
and risk reduction health education;
4. Reaffirms the recommendations provided by APHA policy statement
#8909: Reducing Health Risks Related to Environmental Lead Exposure;
5. Urges the EPA to promulgate a health-based standard for house dust
and residential soil that are adequate to protect preschool children
from unacceptable lead exposure;
6. Urges HUD to conduct a national survey of housing, incorporating
sources of lead exposure and children's blood lead levels; and
7. Urges HUD, EPA and CDC to collaboratively fund or conduct research
on the optimal methods of abatement to maximize safety, efficacy and
--Peter Montague (National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)
[*] "[Policy Statement] 9704," AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH Vol.
88, No. 3 (March 1998), pgs. 498-500.
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exposures of children in Cincinnati, Ohio. CHEMICAL SPECIATION
Descriptor terms: lead; children; apha; american public health
association; toxic heavy metals; resolutions; polluter pays principle;
housing; paint; paint industry; lead industry; tobacco;