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May 12, 2003

Paint Manufacturers Agree to Steps to Protect Children From Lead Paint Poisoning

Warning labels on paint cans will alert consumers to risk of lead dust in renovation work.

U.S. EPA says about 900,000 children age 1-5 have elevated blood-lead levels.

DES MOINES. Attorney General Tom Miller said today that the National Paint and Coating Association (NPCA) has agreed to put labels on paint cans warning consumers about the risk of lead-paint exposure during repainting and other home renovation work.

"Lead is especially dangerous to children," Miller said. "Lead hasn't been used in housing paint since 1978, but it still poses a threat, especially when lead-based paint is chipping, or when it is scraped or sanded in a way that releases lead dust during renovations. The labels will alert people to the danger and tell them where to get information on how to do renovation work safely."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says about 900,000 children ages 1 to 5 have blood-level concentrations above the level of concern. If not detected early, children with high levels of lead can suffer from damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth, headaches, and behavior and learning problems such as hyperactivity, according to the EPA. Lead dust also is harmful to adults - especially pregnant women.

The paint makers will put two types of warnings on paint cans - a full warning typically on the side of a can, and an abbreviated "sticker" warning either printed on the top of the paint can or on a separate sticker. The labels will give two good sources of information on how consumers can protect themselves and their families -- by calling the Environmental Protection Authority's Lead Information Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323), or logging on to . The NPCA also will provide lead-protection brochures and information in stores. *Consumers also may call the Iowa Department of Public health lead hotline at 800-972-2026.

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Background on the Lead Paint Agreement:

Miller said a total of 45 states plus five other jurisdictions reached the voluntary agreement with the NPCA - whose members represent more than 95% of paint companies including the largest manufacturers. Lead poisoning from repainting and renovation has been a safety concern of AGs.

The National Paint and Coatings Association also agreed to fund and provide consumer education and training courses on lead-safe renovation and repainting to homeowners, contractors, landlords and housing workers. Also under the terms of the agreement, NPCA will develop discount programs for safety equipment.

Lead poisoning stemming from inadequate surface preparation prior to repainting affects children from all social and economic backgrounds. Whether repainting a rented apartment or installing a brand new kitchen, it is imperative that families take the proper precautions.

The multi-state agreement reached with the National Paint and Coatings Association was spearheaded by Massachusetts AG Tom Reilly and negotiated with assistant attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Oregon.

"This is a good step forward," Miller said. "As recently as 1978, the EPA estimates there were about three or four million children afflicted with high blood-lead levels. That's been cut to under a million, with substantial efforts, but the EPA still considers lead poisoning to be the number-one environmental health hazard for children. This action by the paint manufacturers will help educate consumers and families about the potential danger that can come with home improvement projects and lead dust."

Paint manufacturers may use a uniform label or one with similar information. The uniform label reads as follows:

WARNING! If you scrape, sand, or remove old paint, you may release lead dust. LEAD IS TOXIC. EXPOSURE TO LEAD DUST CAN CAUSE SERIOUS ILLNESS, SUCH AS BRAIN DAMAGE, ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN. PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD ALSO AVOID EXPOSURE. Wear a NIOSH-approved respirator to control lead exposure. Clean up carefully with a HEPA vacuum and a wet mop. Before you start, find out how to protect yourself and your family by contacting the National Lead Information Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD, or log on to .

The abbreviated "sticker" label, on top of the can or a special sticker, reads as follows:

WARNING! If you scrape, sand or remove old paint, you may release lead dust. LEAD IS TOXIC. Contact the National Lead Information Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD, or log on to

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* The Iowa Dept. of Public Health also has a hotline for questions about blood lead testing, lead-based paint in housing, and how to work safely with lead-based paint when remodeling or repainting. Call the Iowa DPH lead hotline at 800-972-2026.

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