The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution

The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution

"... The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution": Taking Action in a Landmark Case Against the Lead-Paint Industry

Monday, April 24, 2006

Mission Statement

The main goal of the ELEA project The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution is to shed light on a manufacturer’s responsibility to properly communicate information about its products to the public, specifically manufacturers of toxic or potentially toxic substances. Manufacturers of toxic materials are responsible for assuring consumer safety and for creating proper awareness of any potential harm. Revealing, rather than concealing information about the potential harm of lead paint helps reduce the number of individuals at risk for lead poisoning and creates a healthier environment for all. Companies need to acknowledge and address consumers’ rights and uphold their responsibility as a member of society.
This study focuses primarily on lead paint, a highly toxic substance that has harmed millions of people across the country. The use of lead in products such as paint and cosmetics has created harmful, even fatal conditions for children and adults. The purpose of this study is to draw attention to the consequences that both consumers and manufacturers face when this information is not properly conveyed.
The goal of this study is accomplished through the examination of the history of awareness of the dangers of lead, a court case in Rhode Island that is currently taking place, and recent measures to increase awareness of the toxicity of such substances and to call for their removal from consumer products. The first component of this study focuses on the history of consumer awareness of the dangers of lead as used in products such as cosmetics and paint. It examines newspaper articles documenting customers’ concerns as well as citizens’ actions that culminated in the passing of the Food and Drug Act in 1938 in order to trace the rise in consumer awareness of the dangers of toxic materials. As early as the mid-nineteenth century, Americans argued for the removal of lead from paint, as they began to recognize that it posed a significant health threat.
The second aspect of the study focuses on a court case that the state of Rhode Island brought against eight companies that used to produce lead paint. The jury in this case found three paint companies liable for creating a public nuisance in the state by failing to properly warn consumers of the risks of using lead paint and leaving Rhode Island to pay for the consequences of this negligence. This study will examine the reason that the Rhode Island Attorney General chose to bring this lawsuit and how the state was able to win the second of the two trials after the first ended with a deadlocked jury.
The third component explores the growth of government control over industrial pollution. This is achieved through the examination of recent legal actions focused on more closely monitoring manufacturers of toxic substances’ actions and forcing them to warn consumers of the potential danger of their products. In the twentieth century, the United States government made significant strides in banning lead paint and in passing legislation such as the Food and Drug Act of 1938.
The target audience of this study is the American public. Consumers have a right to know what they are purchasing, while manufacturers need to adhere to strict guidelines and standards. The information in this study will be important in the future, as the case in Rhode Island may serve as a model for other states that file similar suits regarding lead paint or as a model for other types of toxic torts. Nonetheless, this case is a landmark in United States jurisprudence, as it marks the first loss that paint companies have suffered in the face of many lawsuits by communities, counties, and state governments in 16 other states. In Rhode Island, the result of this case will bring justice to those who suffered lead poisoning, as well as over 200,000 homeowners whose homes still contain lead paint. The government must continue to monitor the sale of toxic products to ensure consumer safety. In creating a product that addresses a tremendous public health issue, this paper will seek to promote a healthy environment for Americans of all ages as well as expose the significant consequences of a party’s irresponsibility and failure to fulfill its obligation to the public.


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