Lead Paint - You Are Idiots

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Tue, 01/23/2007 - 13:01.

 About three weeks ago, I received the first "Letter to the Editor" in the history of REALNEO. Lots of people send me press releases and event info and tips on cool content, but never has someone sent an opinion editorial to be posted for them (probably because REALNEO is open for anyone to create an account and post content and comments themselves). The letter to the editor was titled "Lead Paint - You Are Idiots" and was received from someone named Kim Falk (he authorized publication of his name) and the email address was from Sherwin Williams. A little googling and I learned he is an employee there - a very enthusiastic and loyal one, to be sure... he was responsible for Sherwin-Williams donating paint to help in the repair of the Pentagon after 9/11. So I was not surprised to read he is protective of his company in defense of them being sued over lead. Still, I was intrigued by the language he uses in his editorial, published below.

I didn't publish it at the time I received it, December 29, 2006, because it was the holidays and life was busy and the editorial slipped my mind, until I received an email this morning from someone at the "As Ohio Goes" blog titled "Sherwin Wms Employee On AOG Defending Lead Paint" with a message saying:

I am asking for your input with a discussion currently happening on AOG. HoboDuke is a new diarist whom is defending Sherwin Williams in the lead paint cases. Now, at first , I thought this was a conservative mole but after I looked into the address and IP ,a little more, I discovered that this man works for Sherwin Williams. I asked him to disclaim that but - he refuses. He also claims to lean left, which some of his homepage suggests is a true statement. So, since many of you are very knowledgable about the subject or can just argue very well - I am asking for your help to kindly show this man a different perspective on this very important issue.


As sample of the diary: "America is bleeding jobs overseas right now. What message do these ridiculous lawsuits send to manufacturers in America? “We reserve the  right to sue you, up to a century later, for things that you did which were perfectly legal. How stupid can we be? "

This was all too familiar, so I checked out the situation on asohiogoes.com and saw the posting causing this stir was basically the same as the letter to the editor  I posted this to link the two together - there will be lots of crazy stuff happening here around this whole lead ltiigation thing - look at SB117...

Here is the Letter to the Editor I received from Kim Falk at Sherwin-Williams... feel free to comment:


From: To: Subject: Date: 
Kim Falk
realneo [at] inbox [dot] com
Lead Paint - You Are Idiots
Fri, 29 Dec 2006 07:35:27 -0500


To the Editor:
It must be nice to be ignorant of the facts and go around patting yourself on the back for your moral superiority. it must make you feel extremely superior to everyone else around you whom you look down on in your ignorance.
The recent move by many cities to jump on the "lead paint lawsuit" bandwagon is stupid, short-sighted, and extremely dangerous.
America is bleeding jobs overseas right now.  What message do these ridiculous lawsuits send to manufacturers in America?  "We reserve the right to sue you, up to a century later, for things that you did which were perfectly legal." How ludicrous is that?
If these lawsuits eventually win any awards, you will see manufacturers heading overseas and abandoning America as fast as they can pack. Leaving hundreds of thousands of workers in America jobless. They will move to countries which will enact laws to protect them from future lawsuits. Countries that care about jobs and a vital economy. And what of the states and cities that file these lawsuits? Do you think any manufacturer is going to want to come and build a new facility and hire people in those places when they see this stupidity? Do you think manufacturers that are already in those cities and states are going to want to stay there? This is a greedy attempt to gain fast money today by sacrificing the jobs and security of people tomorrow.  Don't let it happen. 
People have been on their soapboxes whining about the morality of selling lead paints. They claim the manufacturers knew of the dangers and ignored them in order to make a profit. They make it sound like the companies were conspiring to kill children in order to make a buck. They fail to understand that the government was just as aware of the problems and did nothing to stop the sale of these products. The dangers of lead were not "secret" and the industry had exactly the same information as the government. There has never been a law forcing manufacturers to be morally correct, just legally correct.  Yet, many tried to be morally correct and are still being sued. As a matter of record, the government forced paint manufacturers to make lead-based paints for decades even when the manufacturers were trying to eliminate the products. Government requirements for paint for government projects required it. Furthermore, not every manufacturer waited until the government declaration to stop production of the products. Many had stopped putting lead into consumer products by the 1920's and 30's simply because they were trying to be moral and responsible.  Yet those companies are being lumped in with those who waited until the the government forced a change, ignoring those who tried to be responsible. This is patently unfair. 
There are also many other sources of lead in the environment.  Deposits from old auto emissions (lead in gas), old lead pipes and solder in homes far outweigh lead paint hazards, yet, no one is suing plumbing manufacturers or solder manufacturers or oil companies.  They are expecting the paint manufacturers to completely foot the bill for the environmental cleanup. Blaming them for every case of lead poisoning discovered in the last 80 years. Furthermore, lead paint is not dangerous if the application is maintained properly.  Most of the cities and states trying to bleed the paint manufacturers for a fast buck already have laws requiring property owners to maintain their property.  If they simply enforced their existing laws, and made the neglectful property owners clean up, there would be no issue. 
How ridiculous are these lawsuits?  Newspapers used inks for years that had toxic metals in them. They didn't stop until the government forced them. Many magazines still use them. If an ex-paperboy or mailman gets sick in the year 2050, should he be able to sue the newspaper or magazine if the inks were legal?  The companies know they are toxic and continue to use them. The government knows they are toxic and allows their use. The newspapers are quick to jump on the lead paint bandwagon and express their opinion about how bad the paint companies were. It's good press and makes them look morally superior. Will they acknowledge their legal use of toxic materials and volunteer to be morally superior by paying billions to clean up toxic inks from old homes and landfills? Not a chance!  
You are personally at risk. Do you have a lawn service come out and put chemicals on your lawn? Many of those chemicals are toxic, but they are legal.  You can even buy those lawn products and bug killers in stores and apply them yourself, without license or training. If I live next to you and I get sick in 80 years, can I sue you or the lawn company, or the store, or the chemical manufacturer, for poisoning me with chemicals that everyone knew were toxic, even though they were legal? Will you be morally outraged that the companies used these chemicals even though you paid for the services or products? Will you wonder why you are being sued for doing something that was perfectly legal to do?
The food you eat, the clothes you wear, the products you use everyday are created using chemicals that can be toxic ... but they are legal.  No one is demanding any of these other manufacturers to take a moral stand and quit using these products. Why are you trying to punish and blame the paint manufacturers?
Don't say these examples are different than the lead-paint lawsuits. They are exactly the same thing.  If those lawsuits win, everyone will be open to litigation for anything they did legally for centuries. 
Let's wake up and quit trying to bleed a fast buck out of every company just because the governments are in money trouble or we are too lazy to force property owners to be responsible. Go after the property owners who let the problems happen. Don't select one group to dump your indignation on without facts.
And don't kid yourselves. The lawsuits all across the country are being brought by a handful of legal firms who stand to make hundreds of millions from each settlement. The money won't go to lead paint abatement or property cleanup. It will go into lawyer's pockets. This is just a smoke screen to get public support for these lawsuits so the lawyers can get rich. The less you know, the more they can make.
Tell your local officials to enforce their existing laws and leave the companies alone. Tell your elected officials to back the Ohio law to block these lawsuits. Tell the governor to get off his butt and sign the law. Tell your city and state officials to drop their ridiculous lawsuits and spend YOUR money on something that will actually clean up the problems, rather than cleaning out your pockets. Put the money on the problem, rather than giving it to outside lawyers.  Get the facts.
Kim Falk

Please make sure no other contact info other than name appears with this article if published.

Nice work

Thanks for shedding more light on this, Norm.

The dialog on lead in NEO is presently here

Always good to see expanding awareness and discussion. Today, the dialog about lead is here.

Disrupt IT

Just Two Cents

It is nice that Sherwin Williams is here in town.  It makes kicking them so easy. 

...and, no, I am not a Sherwin Williams Employee.

My two cents is very simple....

Has anyone thought of who the lead pigment manufacturers/supplier(s) is/was/were for all these paints?

Has anyone thought that the real problen is that these lead pigment manufacturers/producers/suppliers have been getting rich, richer, and even richer, (and will continue to do so), so long as they are permitted to continue manufacturing their poisons?

In the movies, (and just maybe in real life), the narcotics agent doesn't just go after the local pusher, or his supplier.  They try to go after the "man (woman) at the top", and "get him" (her).

Drug dealers come and go.

Paint companies come and go.

Paint companies will come and go, long after Sherwin Williams is a footnote in the history books.

Those paint companies will still continue to use the cheapest pigments available to them, which are the lead based pigments.

I think we should target the "man (woman) at the top", for they really are the ones making the poisons, getting rich off the sales, and somebody else (paint companies) is/are left "holding the bag"

Maybe we should consider something as simple as taxing the production of these pigments, like we have taxed the tobacco (and other "legal" poison) manufacturers.  Maybe those (retroactive?) taxes could be used for lead clean-ups, education, treatment programs, etc...

When people were concerned about asbestos, did we go after the contractors, the pipefitters, or the heating and cooling people who installed the poisonous (but legal at the time) product in our houses & schools?  ...or was the root of the problem addressed, and were the asbestos manufacturers blamed?

Here is a simple Google search that might help you with your research:


Sherwin-Williams is protected in NEO and Ohio

When East Cleveland and other cities brought to Ohio litigation against the lead paint industry, the most common response I heard was "they are an important employer - protect them". When you add to their political strength here the strength of their also NEO-based powerhouse law firm, Jones Day, and the financial and social influence of all of them on the media here, you can say the war against lead in NEO is covered in Sherwin-Williams whitewash that well protects them from any real scrutiny. The ultimate application of their strength was SB117, which represented a powerful law firm and paint company corrupting many legislators to betray the public interests. Whether Sherwin Williams is highly liable, a little liable or free of liability is not a matter to be determined in the statehouse or media but in court (even if Ohio courts were designed by the past state administration and current leaders to protect industry). When we see government corrupted by industry to the level of writing legislation to prevent the public from having their day in court, all reason must be thrown out the window. You are right that there are many reasons we have lead in our environment, and many parties are liable... the problem is Ohio leaders seem to be so lead poisoned they don't have the mental capacity to determine right from wrong well enough to allow the public the opportunity to protect themselves to the extent the legal systems allow. Under the past Ohio leadership, Ohio descended to a state so wretched that the leaders were more focused on outlawing gay marriage then encouraging economic development - acting against economic development - and most recently were able to corrupt our state constitution with their cloak-of-paint SB117 ploy - Strickland may put a stop to all that - we'll see. To make certain Ohio and Ohioans have a desirable future, these are all issues to be played out in public and court, rather than back-rooms,

Disrupt IT

Stu Greenberg Letter to Editor on lead paint lawsuits

Stu Greenberg responds below to this editorial in the PD
cases miss mark A better solution to the lead paint problem would be a deal that helps affected children
Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH)
May 29, 2007
Author: The Plain Dealer

Sometimes a lawsuit isn't the best way to bring an industry to heel. It would be wise for governments to consider that point when dealing with the former producers of lead paint and pigment.

Right now, the industry faces several public nuisance suits from Ohio cities and the state for allegedly poisoning thousands of children by putting lead in their paint decades ago.

Ohio is following an arduous path taken by Rhode Island, which won a preliminary victory last year. Paint companies have appealed their loss to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, which means the eight-year court battle will stretch longer yet, with the final outcome uncertain.

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann, well aware of the industry's excellent track record in court, says he has discussed the possibility of a settlement with Ohio-based Sherwin-Williams that would help cities repaint and restore lead-contaminated homes.

The solution to ending lead poisoning isn't inside the courtroom. It's around the negotiation table and inside deteriorating properties that children call home.

One option would be for Congress to give paint companies immunity from public-nuisance lawsuits in return for the creation of a national fund to eliminate lead paint dangers. That would give both sides what they want: Older cities (including Cleveland and Akron, which so far have declined to file lawsuits) need money to repair peeling paint and abate lead dust that poisons children. Paint companies are clamoring for freedom from potentially costly lawsuits that could ruin them.

Immunity from such lawsuits was almost in their grasp in Ohio until Gov. Ted Strickland vetoed Substitute Senate Bill 117, which sent the issue to the courts.

But the courts simply are not the place to handle this matter. Rhode Island's lower-court victory has meant nothing to youngsters trapped in deteriorating properties owned by slum landlords.

Paint companies blame those louts for making the problem worse, and they're right. Bad landlords won't shape up until cities do a better job of enforcing housing codes. Money to help do that could come from a national fund.

The National Paint and Coatings Association, the paint companies' trade organization, already has agreed to concessions that include putting warning labels on paint cans. Surely, the association can be prodded to support a fund that would allow cities to repair poisonous houses.

In the end, an act of Congress and vigorous code enforcement will do more to protect children from lead than any court battle.

Litigation threats get targets to the bargaining table

Saturday, June 09, 2007
Stuart J. Greenberg


The Plain Dealer's muddled editorial on lawsuits against lead-paint manufacturers (May 29) misses the point that negotiated settlements (which the editorial favors) generally come about only because of the very lawsuits the editorial criticizes.

The editorial acknowledges that Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann discussed the possibility of settlement with Sherwin-Williams. Does anybody think such discussions would occur without threat of litigation?

The editorial proposes congressional action to grant immunity from lawsuits in exchange for industry funding of lead-paint repairs. This is based, of course, on the threat of lawsuits to bring the paint industry to the table, and it is quite different from the free grant of immunity passed by the Ohio General Assembly last session and vetoed by Gov. Ted Strickland.

The editorial notes approvingly the industry agreement to put warning labels on paint cans and naively declares, "Surely, [they] can be prodded to support a fund that would allow cities to repair poisonous houses." Well, the cost of labels is trivial in comparison to the cost of a national fund to repair housing. Litigation may be a blunt instrument of public policy, but a blow from a blunt instrument is sometimes the prod required.

Stuart J. Greenberg, Cleveland

Greenberg is executive director of Environmental Health Watch.

You tell it Stu! Educate these folks! Thanks for keeping our eyes open to the threat posed by lead.