A long-running California lawsuit has concluded with three paint companies being ordered to pay $1.1 billion to remove lead paint in 10 cities and counties. The judge ruled that the companies had created a "public nuisance" by selling the toxic paint for decades before it was banned in 1978, the Los Angeles Times reports. Some 5 million homes in the cities and counties that sued, mainly in low-income neighborhoods, may still contain enough lead paint to pose a health risk.
Childhood exposure to lead has been linked to learning disabilities, other health problems, and even adult criminality. But the paint companies say they sold the lead paint in good faith before the ban and have vowed to fight the ruling, the AP reports. "The decision rewards scofflaw landlords who are responsible for the risk to children from poorly maintained lead paint, and it conflicts with and threatens to upend California's lead poisoning prevention programs, which work," a spokeswoman for the companies says. "This decision is more likely to hurt children than help them, and it will likely disrupt the sale, rental, and market value of all homes and apartments built before 1978."