Lead paint’s harm: A judge’s ruling may benefit thousands of poor children

It took 13 years and far too much paint licked by youngsters like Antonio for mitigation monies to be ordered, but this week a judge potentially changed the lives of thousands of mostly poor California children.

Those kids, stuck in older homes with internal walls slopped over by lead-based paint, pick at the chipped paint, then put the pieces in their mouths. The results of lead poisoning can range from behavioral issues and learning disabilities to deafness, even death.

In his 110-page ruling, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg said at least three companies that sold the paint knew it was harmful to children and ordered them to pay more than $1 billion to help get the paint off the walls in potentially millions of California homes.  

Former Center reporter Kelley Weiss alerted readers to a possible Christmas court surprise when she surveyed the issue in October for a KQED radio piece. Simultaneously, the Center’s multimedia journalist Lauren M. Whaley spent time in Oakland with three-year-old Antonio and Nathaniel Stone, his legal guardian. Antonio suffers from lead poisoning, a “silent killer” according to his therapist, Morgan Bonar, and a condition that has left Antonio partially deaf and developmentally challenged.

Though the ruling will undoubtedly be appealed, one can now imagine kids like Antonio not having the opportunity to sample lead-based paint. In fact, one can imagine thousands of tomorrow’s Antonios having the opportunity to become normal three-year-olds.

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