The lead in your walls will kill you just as effectively as the lead in a bullet, just slower.
That's the message the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is sending those who live in Toronto homes built before the 1960s. The group is targeting Sherwin-Williams , a major manufacturer of interior lead-based paint until lead content was limited to 0.6 per cent by law in 1976, demanding that the company clean up its mess.
According to ACORN, about 1.4 million homes across the province pose the risk of lead paint exposure, which can cause learning disabilities in kids and anemia in high doses.
The group wants Sherwin-Williams to shell out billions of dollars to begin the lead remediation process, including putting up new drywall and slapping up new coats of lead-free paint.
But Health Canada doesn't think lead paint is a big issue for Canadians, since it wasn't sold here to the same extent as in the U.S. Health Canada spokesperson Jason Bouzanis says, "Canada doesn't have the large areas of rundown, inner-city housing they have in the U.S., so fewer people here are exposed to leaded paint chips and dust from deteriorating buildings."
Toronto public health says lead in houses is generally no cause for alarm, but Monica Campbell, manager of the enviro protection office at TPH , concedes that the risk of lead exposure is greater in homes built before 1950. Campbell says dusting is the best defence against decaying lead paint. Also, TPH cautions against sanding down lead-painted surfaces when fixing up old homes and notes that pregnant women shouldn't participate in renovations.
The Cleveland-based company says it's up to homeowners and landlords to do the job, and calls ACORN's accusations "historically inaccurate" because, apparently, Sherwin-Williams stopped making lead paint in 1937.
"Homes that are well maintained and intact don't have lead paint problems," says the company's communications director, Mike Conway . "When housing authorities crack down on [derelict] landlords, they are well on their way to bringing a solution to the problem. We as a company don't have access to those homes. We can't walk right in and offer solutions, but we do offer programs based on [in-store] education in lead remediation."
That wasn't good enough for the state of Rhode Island, which sued the paints off Sherwin-Williams in February. A jury ordered the company to clean up more than 300,000 lead-contaminated homes and pay billions of dollars in potential damages. Conway says the company is appealing the ruling.
But ACORN member Maria Dodaro says they should get ready for a second hit. "We're hoping we can have our own lawsuit in Ontario to sue the company, and if we win, the government will have the money to do the remediation."