NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Nancy Pavur became aware of the hazards of lead-based paint when her three children were exposed to high levels of lead at their house two years ago.
She hopes the NAACP's threat to sue paint companies will bring national attention to lead-poisoning victims and help save other children from such dangers.
"It's very stressful to know it's irreversible," said Pavur, whose children are still being treated for elevated blood lead levels. "There are so many children exposed to this."
NAACP president Kweisi Mfume said Tuesday that even though paint companies have contacted him, his group is still preparing to sue the industry unless it becomes more involved in lead paint abatement and treatment for victims.
An industry representative said paint companies want to work with the NAACP, but a lawsuit would have a "chilling effect on cooperative solutions."
"The industry ought to understand there are consequences in all of this that cannot be delayed," Mfume said.
But Tom Graves, vice president and general counsel for the National Paint & Coating Association, said a class-action lawsuit would be a waste of resources.
"The attention to the issue is great and we welcome it," Graves said. "The lawsuit is not the right approach."
Lead paint has been linked to lower IQ, mental retardation, learning difficulties, behavioral problems, stunted growth and hearing loss. At high levels, lead is also believed to cause kidney damage, seizures, coma and even death.
Manufacturers stopped making lead paint decades ago and the product was banned for use as interior paint in 1978 — an action Graves said his group supported.
Yet lead paint is still present in many older buildings, and children are at risk of ingesting the toxin.
Nearly 1 million U.S. children suffer from lead poisoning, said Ruth Ann Norton, of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning.
Rhode Island and the city of Milwaukee have pending lawsuits against paint makers, claiming the companies knew or should have known about the damaging effects of lead paint.
On the Net: NAACP: www.naacp.org